Friday, October 7

Janet – Etcetera Theatre

I have to say that I was not sure what to expect when reading the summary of the show, as it does sound absurd to make a character from a piece of bread dough.  I am pleased to say, that the unique skills of performer, Helen Ainsworth and director, John Mowat left me in no doubt that this unusual approach to puppetry is very entertaining.

The story begins with Ainsworth wearing her chef’s uniform and hat, incorporating a mask, as she begins to bring the characters alive.  Beryl is a packet of French bread flour, Keith is a rusty lidded water jug, and Lady Jane Grey is a posh sounding teapot from Sheffield.  The show begins with Beryl and Keith consummating their relationship, by mixing together their flour and water to create Janet, their beloved offspring, the French bread dough.

Janet at first glance is a somewhat pitiful thing, but thanks to the dough proving process, (and here’s one I made earlier), she grows into a much larger, useable piece of bread dough.  As Janet converses with her father and then Lady Grey, she becomes confused by how people see her.  Her father Keith tells her that she is beautiful, but the acidic tongue to Lady Grey poo-poos Keith’s praise of his daughter and tells her to ignore any praise that your parents give you, as it is not to be believed.  This very topical subject of body dysmorphia is raised due to Janet believing that she is beautiful, and can be what she wants to be, but her destiny to be a loaf of bread, or a croissant. 

During the play, Janet’s character grows and becomes more aggressive as she fights her fate.  There is a dark comedy element which is very well written, and the comic timing from Ainsworth makes this play a joy to watch.  It is clever, unusual, and very witty, but also highlights very current subjects such as identity and body shaming.  Yes, it is a little rough around the edges, but it has a charm, and it completely surprising.

The show has finished now at the Camden Fringe Festival but go to their website – http://www.helenandjohn.co.uk/ for further information about this very interesting company, and for details of future events.

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 24th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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