Writer: James McDermott
Reviewer: Lizz Clark
If you like 1980s teen movies, you’ll probably enjoy Rubber Ring, James McDermott’s semi-autobiographical one-man show. Its hero, Jimmy, is a sarcastic teenager with a heart of gold, stuck in Sheringham with nothing but his love of Morrissey and a growing determination to escape. We travel with him as he leaves his lonely bedroom for the great beyond, cycling out of town in search of adventure.
It’s a smooth, enjoyable ride. McDermott’s eye for the details of rural life is obviously born of personal experience. Jimmy jokes wryly about the complete lack of social life, 4G, and regular bus services. The witty, observational teenage style is clearly influenced by John Hughes’s films, and perhaps those noughties bastions of self-discovery, Queer as Folk and Sugar Rush. For, as Jimmy contemplates hopping on a train to London, he doesn’t just want to see Morrissey perform live: he’s also in search of community and sexual discovery. Is he gay, straight, or bisexual? Or none of the above?
What keeps us engaged in Jimmy’s self-serving quest is McDermott’s charismatic performance. He creates a whole world peopled with characters that we instantly recognise. Jimmy himself is charming, a mild-mannered rebel plagued by self-doubt. Nobody is rolling in the aisles during Rubber Ring, but there’s a stream of gentle laughs fuelled by McDermott’s quirky characters.
The observant Smiths fan will spot many references to Moz’s oeuvre, from gym teacher Ms Shankly to Jimmy’s unfortunate “punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate”, but it’s not necessary to get them all. Nor, thankfully, is the show an ode to Morrissey as a person, though Jimmy is inspired to self-examination by Moz’s apparent bisexuality and his professed celibacy. But it’s in finding other Morrissey fans, especially the genderqueer dancer Billy, that Jimmy finally starts to feel less alone.
Finding a community with shared interests, recognising that your loneliness and alienation are not that unusual after all: it’s standard teen stuff, and has a teen movie’s idea of plot expediency too, with some rather convenient coincidences. Everything’s glossed over with a sheen of nostalgia, despite happening in the present day, so that references to The O2 and Grindr are occasionally surprising. But refreshingly, Jimmy’s story doesn’t end with a coming-out scene or a typical teen-movie kiss. It’s cleverer and more open-ended than that. This gently comic journey through adolescent rebellion has a lot of heart.
Runs until Saturday 4th November | Image: Contributed