Mudlarks Theatre’s Jerk, written by Nick Edgeworth, is the story of Ivan the Id (Nick Edgeworth), Ellen the Ego (Harley Truslove) and Simon the Superego (Ryan Harris), and their lives managing the actions of the young man whose brain they control. When they are born, it is just Ivan, on his own, in a want, point, have, world, but as they grow up Ellen appears, followed by Simon, and the messy world of puberty is explored as they grow up.
Ivan quickly learns the power of emotional manipulation and how getting the things he wants releases dopamine, which is enjoyable for him, as well as Ellen and Simon. The dopamine is shown to us through flashing coloured lights and all three actors gazing in wonder and contentment. The release of dopamine is Ivan’s main goal, whereas Simon’s main goal is reducing the guilt levels that Ivan’s activities produce, which creates a nice sense of tension between the two characters.
As well as speaking to each other, the three characters regularly interact with “Sarah”, a disembodied, robotic voice who monitors and communicates with other parts of the body. Sarah’s character has the feeling of both a manager and assistant to the three personifications of the psyche, which creates a sense of equality between all four characters.
As they grow up, life becomes harder and getting what they want becomes more difficult. The shock which reverberates around the characters the first time they are told “no” by their parents is palpable and creates a really identifiable character. The sense of the life they are leading and their interactions with other people is brilliant considering that you never see the person they live within and confusion could easily occur with the separation of the root character into the four, very different, parts. Instead, there is a core of common purpose between them all, enhanced by the dopamine releases and affected by the guilt cycles which makes it clear throughout that everyone we see is one person, navigating their way through the confusing journey of growing up.
Ellen’s sensible attitude and problem-solving abilities are quietened by her naiveté and Simon’s hyper-organised mind is plagued with the doubt that occurs when one allows fear and guilt to overtake everything. The portrayal of the strained relationship between Edgeworth and Harris is brilliantly done, with the tension being delicately mediated by Truslove throughout.
The set is very simple, reminiscent of an office cubicle in a bland corporate world, emphasised by the actors’ smart but unremarkable corporate clothing. These simple visuals paired with the strong dialogue, facial expressions and body language, creates a real sense of the characters’ world. Edgeworth’s longer hair emphasises his more relaxed attitude and Truslove’s wide-eyed panic when things begin to go wrong personifies the rational mind spiralling out of control perfectly.
All three performances are excellent, a delicate blend of contrast and synchronisation among the actors creating a real sense of both the differences between them and their common goals and aspirations. Each of them brings an innocence to the roles which highlights the youth of their charge, while remaining single-mindedly determined that their way is the right way.
Jerk is an incredibly identifiable piece about growing up and losing your way in that strange identity between childhood and adulthood. Witty, poignant and hilarious, you feel the pain of each of the characters and want all of them to work out the best way to live together in peace and harmony. A dark comedy that everyone can relate to, Jerk is a brilliant and original piece of online theatre.
Jerk is being streamed by Brighton Fringe until 27th June 2021. Tickets are available here https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/jerk-152838/
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 2nd June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★
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