Monday, November 28

Jam Tart / Lemon Kurd – Camden Fringe

Ragged Foils’ Jam Tart / Lemon Kurd are two monologues, directed by Natalie Winter, in which women explore their wants and desires in later life. Both Claire (Katy Maw) and Cathy (Mary Tillett), were wives, mothers and daughters, swept along in life’s journey realising one day that they had lived their lives for other people and finding a determination to break out of the mould and do something that is just for them.

The first monologue, Jam Tart, written by Rhiannon Owens, tells Claire’s story after she flees her 54th birthday party in order to begin a new life. The piece opens with Maw staring nervously, too close to her wobbly webcam, before settling on an untidy bed, with a pretty landscape hanging above it, an idealistic image reminiscent of the stifling life Claire is trying to escape.

Claire suffered a crisis of identity on seeing, and feeling, 54 candles on her birthday cake and left the party in a panic. Pointing out the fact that women are often defined by their relationships to other people, she reveals that she doesn’t know who she is or how her life passed her by while she only did things to please other people. She also feels that she wasn’t key to anything, with her brother, Sam being their parents’ favourite child, and her children and husband, James no longer needing her, which has left to her feeling displaced and resentful.

After fleeing her birthday, she soon begins a new life with new friends and hobbies which turn things around for her. There is a darkness to the piece however, which implies that she is still doing things to please other people, just she is happier with the desires that the new people in her life have.

Maw is quietly spoken throughout the piece, which emphasises the guilt of the character running away and gives a genuine feeling to the portrayal but does mean that she is barely audible on occasion, particularly when she puts her hand over her mouth to laugh something off.

There are a number of funny moments, which explore British stereotypes and the role of women in today’s world. Maw describes her story in vivid detail and paints a vibrant picture of her suburban life and the surprising turn that it takes. The ending is tender and sweet, and Claire seems to be genuinely happy with her current circumstances and there is a feeling that things will continue to get better for her.

The second monologue, Lemon Kurd, written by Nick Maynard, tells the story of Cathy, a widow who lives in Bolton and decides to go on her first holiday alone. Told in a sunny room, Tillett sits in a sumptuous white dressing gown surrounded by encyclopaedias and other reference books.

Cathy’s house is too big for her really, now that her husband is gone and her children grown up and moved away, but she loves her garden and particularly the birds that visit it. Her favourite bird is the magpie, which she says does not deserve its reputation. She is deeply knowledgeable about birds and their role in nature and makes sure that she looks after herself, body and mind.

She is an intelligent woman with many opinions on politics and other current events, and has many memories of historical political events, such as some people’s reluctance to join the EU in the first place. Cathy feels that she has begun to turn into her mother as she has grown older and has started saying the same things she used to say, echoing back to Claire’s crisis over ageing in Jam Tart.

She decides to take a holiday to France on the Eurostar as she has always wanted to travel through the Chunnel. While in Calais she visits the Jungle and there meets Kadeem, a refugee from Aleppo whom she befriends. Empathising with the refugees’ plight, she points out that you can’t blame people for only trying to escape a dire situation as she offers her outsider’s view of the crisis.

Lemon Kurd is a funny and sweet monologue and Tillett has a very welcoming presence which creates an intimate feeling to the performance. Gently going off on various tangents as she tells her heartwarming story, the piece feels like a very natural story. Her inquisitive nature means that she makes many witty observations on double meanings and stereotypes. Slightly predictable towards the ending, this is nevertheless a warm and gentle tale which offers a different slant on something about which everyone has an opinion.

The monologues both have a confessionary style, similar to Alan Bennett’s iconic Talking Heads series. There are some issues with the video editing, with several sharp jump cuts being quite distracting on occasion, but overall, both pieces are well written and performed.

Jam Tart / Lemon Kurd explores themes of ageing, loneliness and the effect that families growing up have on the women who have dedicated their lives to raising them. Looking at the judgments made by people when these women decide to do something for themselves and the fight these women have to have to live their own lives, this is an interesting piece of online theatre which is a worthy addition to the monologue genre.

Jam Tart / Lemon Kurd is being streamed by Camden Fringe until 29th August 2021. Tickets are available here  

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 15th August 2021