Review: 'John' @ Alma Tavern

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By Dayana Soroko, English Literature, Second Year

Theatre-19’s sold out John played at the Alma Tavern May 27-29. Their first ever in-person performance, the group is a small, student-led, non-profit organisation founded during the first lockdown to keep creative productions alive.

The team consists of a plethora of talented University of Bristol (UoB) students who are passionate about supporting other creatives and performers as well as working their way to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Kathryn Ellis directs this irreverent story of a group of friends and acquaintances mourning the loss of their friend John. In this tragicomedy-drama, it is not long until we are taken on a whirlwind of a plot twist, allowing us to get to know some quirky characters like Primo and Penelope.

The show opens with an intriguing sight - Primo is lying on the floor, with their legs sticking out behind the sofa. Primo is a character to look out for - at first an antisocial, blunt addition to the group, they soon become the dark horse of the story.

Ethan’s lover’s wake is set in their living room, with the first scene opening with a farcical interaction between Ethan and Penelope. Penelope is a middle to upper class UoB student parading the stage in a furry leopard print and flares. She exclaims that she cannot eat the buffet because she is gluten and meat free, but likes to separate her dietary habits with her favourite sport - hunting.

Image courtesy of Theatre-19 | Ben Carpenter and Ember Lamas

The play features many laugh out loud moments - such as Penelope’s laughable ignorance, calling John and Ethan’s partnership ‘partners in crime’ or ‘lab partners’. It touches on themes of homophobia, grief, friendship, relationships, and drugs with a clever humour.

The characters do not break the fourth wall until the middle of the play, where Primo’s character takes a surprising turn following a massive plot twist. Primo delivers a monologue to the audience in a cowboy-style hat, sunglasses and suit to a comically fast paced action theme tune; the entire scene is utterly fashionable.

Image courtesy of Theatre-19 | Ben Carpenter and Ember Lamas

The team have managed to pull together a sophisticated story with quick-witted dialogue framed within an artistically curated plot, enhanced by dramatic and clever lighting and theatrical body language.

The cast that plays the six vibrant personas did a fantastic job at immersing us into the characters, especially considering this was their first live in-person production since the pandemic started.

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Featured Image: Theatre-19 / Ben Carpenter


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