Red Gallery, Shoreditch, London
What Lies Between Me & Jean is a classic comedy piece with many hidden undertones of a serious yet poignant nature. It’s a story about Steven and Lou, on the surface at least. They work together and their working relationship and indeed their relationship as a whole is put under the spotlight in this glorious piece of observational theatre. Steven is a drag artiste and goes by the alias of Jean Pocket. Lou is the put upon, somewhat downtrodden assistant, who is pushing Steven to complete the script for a stage show that is set to change the course of his career. Jean will be brought to a theatre audience and the pair are running through the script for the introduction of the show.
Both characters are so well rounded that you get a sense of their personalities within the first few minutes. Lou (played by Anna-Lisa Maree) is particular, she is clearly quite irritated by ‘Jean’ (played by Anthony Poore/Tanya Hyde) and her well placed huffs and body language say it all without the aid of the exceedingly well crafted script. Then there’s Steven/Jean, he’s a bit of a diva, a quick-witted, sharp tongued extrovert, but with a vulnerability that shines through, and the vulnerability is shown far more often than at the key moment in the piece. The chemistry between the performers is evident as they bounce the dialogue off one another in, for the most part, a laugh a minute script. When the laughs stop, we see the real characters and that is what Anna-Lisa Maree is so adept at achieving with her work.
When you’re already familiar with a playwright’s work and you’ve seen one of the stars of the show on a previous occasion, pre-conceived ideas are inevitable. Anna-Lisa Maree’s latest short play, contained all of the essentials that I’ve come to expect from her talented mind, but there was a little something extra, this time.
Whether it was the fact that the lady herself was playing the other role in this two-hander? Maybe, for she is as gifted an actress as she is a writer and director, that’s for sure. Casting Anthony Poore aka Tanya Hyde as Jean Pocket, ‘Stitch Bitch to the Stars’ was a bold move, given that he has already created the role of Nathan in her successful play, Blast From The Past. However, she has done this terrific performer a huge favour, because his versatility is clear. Jean (or Steven), couldn’t be more different to Nathan, and what Poore/Hyde has done with the role is to bring out a three dimensional character who pours out every emotion within the short time frame. I’ll point out that he does this in high heels for the majority of the show, too.
This play needs just one further ingredient, make it longer, please!
Photo Credits: Anna-Lisa Maree