curious is truly an excellent piece of theatre 🎭

BY LOWIE TREVENA, IMAGES BY HELEN MAYBANKS

Jasmine Lee-Jones’ latest show is theatre made for 2021. curious, the follow up to her 2019 play the seven methods of killing kylie jenner, explores Blackness, queerness, elitism, and femininity and the very real consequences of erasure and alienation.

Focusing on Jaz, a second-year drama school student, and one of two Black trainees in her class, they’re sharing the role of servant in a Restoration play and Jaz’ frustration leads her to ask, ‘were there any Black actors in the 18th century?’.

The play follows her as she discovers the life of Celia Edlyne at the Brixton Black Cultural Archives, while simultaneously following Jaz’ life as a 19-year-old Black, queer woman in London.

Lee-Jones, playing all the characters, seamlessly becomes Mon, Jaz’ brazen and ultimately tragic best friend, the Fakedeep, a man that Jaz has an intimate relationship with, and Celia, the 18th century actress. There are ten roles in total and Lee-Jones’ balances them all excellently. Told using patois and poetry, Lee-Jones creates a well-rounded play that subtly draws a line between Jaz and Celia.

Curious. Image by Helen Maybanks

It’s ambitious in set design, too. It’s a minimal stage – just a four-poster bed, and there’s a heavy reliance on lighting. Props are handed to characters via a hand in the curtain and there is only one small costume change throughout.

The bold design works nicely but falls down in the same unfortunate way the plot, characters and performance do as well. So much is attempted and squeezed into the 90-minute show that the story ambles aimlessly for too long but is rushed at the end. Similarly, Fakedeep could have been fleshed out more and Mon’s plotline could be explored with less hurry. The lighting, set design and prop use is sometimes off beat or a little too kitsch and Lee-Jones’ excellent writing is sometimes overshadowed.

But despite the creases to be ironed out, curious is truly an excellent piece of theatre, and its creator is one to watch in the coming years.

At just 22-years-old, Lee-Jones is improving with each play and the themes she explores so well – especially Blackness, queerness and womanhood – need to be explored more in theatre, especially at well-known venues like the Soho Theatre. Despite its flaws, curious is miles ahead of many plays created and performed by white, straight men. That needs to be recognised. If she’s given the space to continue creating and exploring, Lee-Jones will be one of biggest talents before long. Watch this space.

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