Sunday, September 24

Jules and Jim – Jermyn Street Theatre

Henri-Pierre Roche’s classic 1952 novel, which was made into a renowned 1962 film directed by François Truffault, has been adapted for the stage by Timberlake Wertenbaker and presented at the Jermyn Street Theatre. It tells the story over 25 years from 1907 of two young men, one German, one French, who meet and form a firm and long-lasting friendship based upon their love of writing.   Their friendship is disturbed when they come across the enigmatic Kath, whose smile they liken to the statue of a Greek goddess they had been infatuated with when they came across it on holiday.  Kath has a dramatic impact on the lives of them, but never destroys the firmness of their friendship.  It is a play about the centrality of love and friendship to life.

Wertenbaker’s script is taut and clear. There is a lot of narration to the audience, which links the acting scenes together well. Although time and location change frequently the audience is never lost. The pace is rapid and the 90 minutes of the single act speeds by.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

The setting in the Jermyn Street’s wide but shallow staging area was sparse, with only a small circular table and three chairs.  The walls were painted with abstract blue stripes and there were two large frosted glass panels moved on rails by the cast periodically; the purpose of which was not clear.  A very effective water feature was used for those important scenes in which water is central.

Alex Mugnaioni as Jim and Samuel Collins as Jules made a good pairing as the two long-standing friends.  Patricia Allison as Kath certainly has the looks and smile of the Greek Goddess which initially beguiled both men. But she was insufficiently versatile to portray the emotional volatility and malevolence of this complex character who is prepared to sacrifice the happiness of others for her own gratification.

I felt that more attention could have been given to the costumes, which were changed little throughout the play, even though locations move from Paris to Berlin and time periods from before the First World War to the 1930s.  Also, more set dressing would have been useful to help demarcate the changes in time and place.

The ending was anticlimactic given the tragic events which bring the relationship between the love triangle to an end.  It could do with a rewrite to bring out the pathos of a beautiful story well retold for the stage.

Playing until 27th May,

Reviewer: Paul Ackroyd

Reviewed: 25th April 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★