Spencer Jones: Making Friends – Soho Theatre, London

Reviewer: Serafina Cusack

Spencer Jones tumbles onto the stage revealing himself from a sound tech disguise into his dishevelled, bathrobed glory. “This isn’t for everyone,” he warns. What follows is an hour of the most audience-friendly, invite-your-uncle comedy you could hope to find in Soho on any given night. You would be hard-pressed not to enjoy the show regardless of your comedic tastes.

Jones paints a frenzied, playful portrait of a middle-aged man losing himself in his garage during lockdown. It starts light-heartedly: he explains he moved from Plumstead to Devon in search of a bigger garden, and anyway, he can pursue his dream of being a serious actor via self-tape audition, freed from the London-centric shackles of pre-pandemic theatre.

He introduces us to the quirky characters in his neighbourhood which contain remarkable subtlety considering they are depicted with large crudely drawn cardboard cutouts. At first, everything appears idyllic: chickens, time with the kids, and a large lawn mower give him a middle-class lifestyle that is much harder to achieve in South East London. But then those characters fade away because Jones is lonely. Miles away from his friends and the place he called home for 27 years, he searches desperately for the twinkle of male friendship in the eye of anyone he passes.

A cautionary tale of trading in your urban lifestyle for a nicer house, this show is desperately sad. He makes grotesque puppets that remind him to go and make human friends, he loses his grip on fatherhood, he becomes jaded and grumpy, he can’t even enjoy his holiday. Jones is skilled in these careful interruptions. Perfectly paced, his reenactment of his time in lockdown is vivid. He produces endless handmade props and is incessantly fiddling with a looping sound desk but it never takes away from the man at the core.

Making Friends is Bo Burnham’s film Inside if Bo Burnham was 15 years older and disappointingly apolitical. Jones has made a piece of art full of whimsy, pathos and satisfying humour with his time in lockdown. It will be exciting to see what he can make when properly stimulated.

Runs until 20 April 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Lonely Laughs Loop

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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