Joy at Etcetera
The title of Velvet Trumpet’s production Joy is an ironic one. There’s no happiness present here, instead an expression of the desperate need for control over one’s life. The play dramatises three mens’ emotions as they each deliver a 20-minute monologue detailing the reasons for their unhappiness. Although the men are very different – professionally and temperamentally – they each share a longing for acceptance.
In the middle of the stage is a table, upon which sits a toaster and a variety of breakfast spreads. Michael (Jon Cottrell), a recent divorcee who has had to move in with his brother, is introduced. Throughout his monologue, Michael makes toast, telling the audience about the new love of his life: Tessa the Toaster. Thomas Jones and Nikolai Ribnikov’s script is at its best here, in its use of toast as a metaphor for complex human relationships. There is a clever play on the objectification of women, as the object becomes the objectified woman. Cotrell’s delivery, however, is not at its best. He seems unconfident, slipping up on lines and drawing the viewer away from what is being said. It becomes apparent that this is a performance, spoiling the escapist element of theatre.
There are some funny moments in both Roger’s (Thomas Jones) and Phil’s (Simon Grujich) monologues, but they are never allowed to be wholly appreciated. The content becomes less a comment on the male vision of femininity and more about crude humour. Roger, a Thames police officer, recounts his experience of being drugged and forced into performing an oral sex act on another man. It seems in bad taste to make light of rape as a subject, even artistically. It begs the question as to why, while it would be considered unacceptable to laugh at a woman describing being drugged with “Tramadol in a sausage roll”, it is considered acceptable to do so at a man.
Grujich is undoubtedly the star of the show in his portrayal of a neurotic suicidal tube driver, but due to the earlier mishaps, the comedic brilliance of his act falls a bit flat. Although the audience are active participants throughout – with each monologue they are utilised to register the play in an authentic reality – Joy fails to engage them.
Joy is on at Etcetera Theatre until 22nd February 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Joy here: