revew: Chris Goode – Jubilee
by Chris Goode/
Royal Exchange Theatre/
This revew is largely written by my friend, Declan Leahy (@DeclanMLeahy). Dec doesn’t work in theatre and he’s never written a revew before but as you can see his is a smart and sensitive boi:
JUBILEE @ THE ROYAL EXCHANGE MANCHESTER
Disclaimer – I know very little about theatre. I’m writing this purely with the credentials of being a bit queer.
I went in expecting to be shocked by a messy show about punks in the 70s. I knew there would be a lot of nudity, I knew there was some queer elements to it, and I knew there was going to be Toyah Wilcox (I shamefully didn’t know who she was). I genuinely loved the show. I’m sure there was a lot going on that I wasn’t even aware of, but it was enjoyable, upsetting, empowering and arresting and it didn’t feel cheap or exploitative, but authentic.
Something I constantly worry about is whether or not i’m being gay enough, or if wanting to be ‘gay enough’ is just playing to a stereotype. Or is that just my own internalised fear and repression kicking in? What is ‘being gay’ anyway? There’s a fear of not knowing who you should be or what your ‘true, authentic queer self is’. We don’t want our sexuality or gender to define us, but we sort of do, and we don’t want to be ashamed of it either. I think this can be a common fear amongst a lot of LGBT people (and I imagine in other marginalised groups as well). I feel like Jubilee took that idea and showed us all that this sort of human complexity is authentic and it’s characters have different ways of being themselves and have their own depth.
For me, Jubilee was about visibly being and owning who you are and being totally and unashamedly complex. I came away from it being totally taken by the fact that it felt like almost all of the characters were more than just a narrative device or a single note brief description which they could’ve so easily been. There could’ve been the ‘crazy pyro’, the ‘sexy nympho’ or the ‘angry trans person’ but all of these characters were actually given the space and time to become more than these easy to digest tropes. They broke out of those boxes and they sort of felt real, which is odd, given that they’re running around having sex and killing people which would usually make people feel less relatable.
This was the most important aspect to the show for me, instead of just using the marginalised characteristics for a bit of narrative flare or as something to save, Jubilee gave space for the characters to be truer, to have different sides to themselves and to be complex. They had different relationships with each other, they acted in sometimes unexpected or unreasonable ways and it made sense, because that’s how people are. They were given the opportunity to show their strength but also be vulnerable or sexy or angry, or naive and full of hope.
I was initially worried about was the ‘punk’ elements. I felt my stomach tighten at the idea of someone screaming ‘fuck everything’ and spitting on stuff whilst listening to the Ramones or the Sex Pistols really loudly. I don’t think it’s uber unreasonable to expect that to be the depiction of Punk at a mostly middle class mainstream theatre. But Jubilee bucked that expectation. It rooted it’s anger in reality and made it clear that there is good reason for these people to be pissed off. When Amyl Nitrate is shouting into the void, damning the failure of every known political system it makes sense. This isn’t just some meaningless existential crisis but a full on assessment of the way political structures have failed people who aren’t the ‘ideal’; who are complex, who are messy and who are real.
The show itself was also really controlled, it felt precise and choreographed. At many points there was a lot going on, but it felt like it was clear where I should focus on, and that it was also alright to get distracted by the interactions happening on the fringes of the stage. It was also just fun, and funny – it didn’t shy away from being overtly self aware and from making reference to the fact that it is a theatre piece.
hi, James again:
The biggest thing I took away (and I’ve been saying to everyone) is that seeing Jubilee made me really aware of the limitations of the Royal Exchange, in a wide, sociological sense. I know the show was shocking, but it wasn’t to me. I know people walked out. I know it will have been a challenge to a lot of the reliable audience-base of the Exchange and I think that right now I believe it was about as challenging a show as the Exchange can get away with. I think it pushed as far as is currently possible, there. I hope the Exchange will broaden. I’d love for change to come overnight. I don’t have faith it will but I have faith We Can Make Change if we want it.
The initial idea for this revew came after going to see Jubilee w/ Dec on press night and having a chat about how he should write the revew cos then ‘i can exploit my gay friend’. Dec went off to write about it and I thought he’d maybe do 300-odd words I could do something like stick a load of footnotes in but I read his revew and it’s totally just a great, thoughtful response and it’d be wrong to mess with it. A lot of his response covers things I felt, too.