Tomorrow at Noon at Jermyn Street Theatre
Jermyn Street Theatre’s feminist counterpoint to Noel Coward’s classic series of one-act plays Tonight at 8:30, Tomorrow at Noon – directed by Stella Powell-Jones – is a poignant trilogy of short pieces about women. Newly created by Jenny Ayres, Emma Harding and Morna Young, the trio of theatrical works examine themes of attachment, betrayal, the meaning of love, passion and the loss thereof, fantasies of repairing past mistakes, cultural perceptions of the feminine and coping with patriarchal systems. Three actresses admirably portray all the characters: Laila Pyne, Laura Morgan and Elaine Claxton.
Young’s Smite – written in response to Coward’s The Astonished Heart – presents two women who have clearly just met: Trisha (Payne), in her 40s and primly dressed, and Allie (Morgan), a contemporary 28-year-old. As the context is gradually revealed, the plot exposes a love triangle involving a dead husband/lover and shocking discoveries that further lend a spotlight to the social disparities of a pre-Blair Britain: “a country with shit gender politics”.
The original Shadow Play is the inspiration for Harding’s The Thing Itself, an examination of gay marriage without emphasis on homosexuality – a study of human relationships within a long-term union. Set in Iceland during a volcanic eruption, the drama follows a couple on the verge of divorce (Pyne, Claxton) who ponder the imaginative possibilities of reinventing and improving life by going back and starting over.
Coward’s Still Life is answered by Ayres in Glimpse, which considers the human need for comfort in familiarity amid frenetic social mobility. An apparently homeless elderly lady (Claxton) sits waiting in a train station for her brother to arrive. Employing humour and tenderness, the piece touches on political discrimination towards the poor, also showing that no woman is free from judgment for her appearance: “people make all sorts of assumptions when you haven’t got tidy hair”.
With the help of thought-provoking, perceptive writing and excellent directing, the acting is brilliant. The performers are astutely versatile, as Claxton morphs from middle-aged gay journalist to sweetly wonky older eccentric; Pyne from snooty outraged wife to scientist, then Jamaican-born station master; and Morgan from confused young rebel to a mysterious spirit, and finally a hung-over bystander. Sets are simple and effective, and vibrant contemporary music adds edge.
At once very funny and heart-breaking, culturally meaningful and politically on point, Tomorrow at Noon is a witty, moving, charming and highly entertaining show.
Photo: Robert Workman
Tomorrow is at Noon from 24th April until 15th May 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.