Jam Tart/Lemon Kurd – Hope Theatre, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Writers: Rhiannon Owens and Nick Maynard

Director: Natalie Winter

One gets the impression that the titles for this diptych of monologues came first. Writers Rhiannon Owens and Nick Maynard each give their actors stories in which an item of British patisserie is given a new spin.

In Jam Tart, Katy Maw plays Clare, a woman in her early fifties who has something of a mid-life crisis when presented with a birthday cake adorned with fifty four candles. So she runs away – all of two hundred yards to a Travelodge at the end of her road, then later to the other side of town.

The emotional distance she has travelled is rather further, though. Her life of being married with children is something one feels she fell into, rather than wanted, and as she begins to take control of her own life, spouse and offspring are what she needs to escape from.

Maw presents Owens’s dry wit well, meaning that as Clare’s new life starts to fall into place with disconcerting rapidity, we are carried along with her. And when her community fundraising suggestion – jam wrestling, like mud wrestling but with extra pectin – is adopted to her surprise, the increasing absurdity of her situation is mirrored by a growing sense of empathy with Maw’s character.

Nick Maynard’s Lemon Kurd similarly deals with an older woman finding renewal in later life. Cathy (Mary Tillett) is a Bolton-based widow with a keen eye and mischievous tongue. Taking her first holiday abroad, she opts to go no further than Calais, a town that which for many Britons represents the gateway to the rest of continental Europe.

But as Cathy explores the town and its tourist sights, she also discovers the Jungle, the (now dismantled) refugee village. Empathising with lives of people “pushed by fear, pulled by hope” to attempt to enter Britain, she finds and sympathises with Kurdish man Kadim.

The romance between the pair is not exactly an original path, but Tillett’s delivery – and her glee at wanting to show off her new partner – alleviates what sense of overfamiliarity Maynard’s script might bring.

It also, in Cathy, brings us a woman whose compassion and heartbreak at all those making the (sometimes fatal) migration to safety and security reminds us all to be more empathetic. Beneath the punning titles, both monologues offer stories with welcome levels of depth and humanity.

Continues until 30 October

The Reviews Hub Score

Monologues with depth and humanity

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