REVIEW: John and Jen

Corpus Playroom at its best.

Cambridge john & jen john and jen john&jen Theatre

“Welcome to the world; it’s such a funny place. The people who you love the most are also the ones who make you cry. I’m not sure why.”

John & Jen is an intimate show, perfect for Corpus Playroom’s smaller, close-up stage. It follows Jen (Olivia Gaunt), centring on her relationships with the two Johns in her life – her younger brother, and his namesake, her son (both played by James Daly).

At turns hilarious, sad and touching, John & Jen is a very subtle play, and it was phenomenally handled by the acting and directing team. Few shows in Cambridge are balanced so delicately. John & Jen moved between wrenching moments of heartbreak and loss, and funny, relatable day-to-day drama, from the children’s’ playful antics to embarrassing mothers.

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Olivia Gaunt as Jen and James Daly as John

Spanning four decades, the play was fast-paced but ran smoothly. Gradual adaptations of costume and manner transformed the two actors from young children to mother and teenage son, and the stage was a simple setup: split in half between John’s untidy child’s bedroom and Jen’s room, which doubled as her university accommodation and, later, the future domestic space of her Canadian home.

john jen

Both Gaunt and Daly are to be congratulated on their performances – they were perfectly cast. In particular, Olivia Gaunt was stunning in her interpretation of the ageing Jen and her vocals were equally mesmerising. John and Jen is a musical, unusual for the Corpus Playroom space which gave this performance a refreshing twist, and both actors sang and harmonised wonderfully. Three musicians (who also performed extremely well) sat around the outside of the stage, which added to the intimacy of the production.

The whole show is designed around immersion and the audience is drawn into the lives of this family. You care deeply about them and follow how they grow up – it’s a beautifully human show.

Spanning love, loss and leaving home, John & Jen is a gorgeous example of how to best use the intimate Corpus space, and a unique piece of theatre that we would thoroughly recommend.

5/5 stars