An evening with Jack is a genuine pleasure

Review by Paul Nelson

THE 2003 season at the Union Theatre, which was heralded so excellently by the play Two Up gains enormous stature with its second production of the year, Jack Pleasure.

The play is a gem. It is, in the middle of a theatrical desert as far as London is concerned, an interesting premise, handled with intelligence and played by a wonderful cast. When you have a good play, cast, direction and the rest, all put together with not only the assurance of people who know they have talent, but are dying to prove it to you, the evening becomes extremely exciting. So it is with Jack Pleasure.

I'm not sure that the title is or is not a deliberate vulgarity, but the play deals with what are virtually masturbatory fantasies, and it is not only entertaining and amusing, but at carefully timed moments, very moving.

Terry is a long distance coach driver. Whilst he is driving the length of the country he plays out fantasies of power over his passengers, making announcements you really feel he would not have the bottle to make in reality. This humdrum existence is so irksome that he decides he wants to go to America and start an entirely new life.

His marriage is a bust-up affair, his father Bill's marriage is also a closed sham, and his aunt makes absolutely no bones about it that either he or his father, if the latter would get a divorce, could be her next husband or affair.

Terry's wife, Susan, on the other hand is bewildered as to why her husband wants to quit and get away.

Matters become particularly acute when Terry reveals he wishes to be known as Jack Pleasure and that the new life is to be one of a porn star. He already has videotapes in the house and is sure he can be as good as anyone he has seen on film.

When Susan discovers this, she confronts him with his real failures. Loving him as she does she offers to be a substitute to any fantasy he would care to name. In a most moving scene, clinging together, these two reach out for the only reality in either of their lives, their love. Their future is still haunted though. In effect, Terry says "I'll turn round at the next junction, and we'll go back".

The theatrical effect of this play's natural dialogue, as you can tell, is devastating.

The play is punctuated with a fantasy woman. The unidentified porno co-star as far as Terry is concerned, and the beautiful, romantic wife Bill forever lost.

I cannot praise this play enough. As I have said, the cast is a definite sensation and they present a play that deserves a much wider audience than it will ever get at its current home.

I really want to see it again.

Jack Pleasure Written and Directed by Adrian Berry, Music by Barry Adamson, Costume and Set Design by Michelle Forster, Lighting Design by Martin Hutchings, WITH: Andy Fox (Terry), Sarah Reed (Fantasy Lady), Lucy Ward (Susan), Colin Hill (Bill), Lynn Austin (Brenda). Produced by Tiny Dynamite at the Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, Southwark, London SE1, Tickets 7261 9876.