Writer: Jonathan Larkin
Director: James Baker
Jonathan Larkin’s gripping new comic drama Cherry Jezebel is a dark and dramatic delight. A love letter to the queer community of Liverpool that is given a raw and honest production thanks to the assured and confident direction of James Baker.
On the multi-leveled and perhaps overly detailed set by Ellie Light which transforms from toilets to living room, Larkin’s characters show that the life of a drag queen is not all glitz and glamour and occasionally that despite the attacks on the streets, it’s the ones closest to home that hurt and cut the deepest.
Following their brilliant Everyman debut last year in Our Lady of Blundellsands, local actor and director Mickey Jones returns to the stage as drag icon Cherry Brandy – a nightclub chanteuse who has a destructive appetite for straight men. Jones is electric, flitting with ease between acerbic bitch and motherly mentor. As graveyard shift club DJ Hiedi Handjob, Mariah Louca provides plenty of gravitas, her character balancing friendships and personal relationships all while struggling to come to terms with her own future choices.
Stefan Race portrays the young non-binary queen Pearl Reckless with an abundance of youthful energy that plays brilliantly against the older cast members. One can’t help but be touched and concerned by the choices of this character who at the heart of things just wants to be accepted, no matter what it takes. Caught up in the middle is George Jones’ “straight” cis male Mo, the catalyst between the ever-present royal eruptions.
Baker ensures that Larkin’s play is pacey and flows with energy, there are some stunning set pieces that really stay in memory and ensure this isn’t your typical piece of drama. Larkin’s script doesn’t hold back, it’s as brutal in its raw honesty as it is in its acerbic humour – neither are for the easily offended, but both so brilliant at encapsulating the reality of the situations being presented.
One of the show’s greatest strengths is its appropriate casting from within the queer community to showcase a true representation of the gender spectrum on the stage. It is clear on press night that the cast are still finding their feet, especially in respect to audience laughter and being heard over it, especially in the deep thrust setting of the Everyman, but this is a little niggle in an otherwise brilliant night of theatre – one that challenges and champions the queer community in perfect abundance.
Runs until 26 March 2022