Royal Exchange, Manchester – until 18 November 2017
Guest Reviewer: Daniel Shipman
Jubilee is a riot. From the slogans spray-painted on to plywood surrounding the Royal Exchange’s in-the-round space to the chaotic way the cast commandeer the stage, it is obvious from the start that this is no ordinary night at the theatre.
An adaption of Derek Jarman’s punk film from the 1970s, Jubilee revolves around Amyl Nitrate (Travis Alabanza) and her loose collective of societal outcasts. As Amyl, Alabanza is a revelation – her heartfelt, angry, intelligent monologues are highlights of the show and I have never witnessed someone engage an audience more skilfully.
Expertly adapted by director Chris Goode, this production brings what could have been a nostalgic glance back at punk kicking and screaming in to 2017. There are references to the Grenfell Tower disaster which occurred in June, and even the Kevin Spacey scandal which broke less than a week before previews began.
The structure of the show is as anarchic as the rest of it; anybody looking for a coherent, sensible plot will be disappointed. What you get instead is a series of snapshots in which Amyl and her friends attempt to leave their mark on society, whether that is through performance art, sex, music or violence. As in life, the boundaries between these things are blurred.
Forty years on from starring as Mad in the film, Toyah Wilcox plays Elizabeth I. She spends most of the time presiding over the production from a throne on the first gallery with very little to say, but the moments when she does speak allow for welcome periods of calm – something you won’t find anywhere else in the show.
Goode’s production is constantly self-referential, it never wants you to forget that you are watching a piece of theatre. Indeed, Lee Curran’s lighting design keeps the audience lit for several scenes and the cast don’t hesitate to playfully put their arms around the shoulders of audience members.
Whether you love it or hate it, I promise Jubilee will be unlike anything you’ve seen on stage before.