Je Suis Charlie

Nick Maynard
Rough Boy Manchester
53two, Manchester

Listing details and ticket info...

Je Suis Charlie

Plays give authors the opportunity to express opinions and explore arguments. With Je Suis Charlie, author Nick Maynard indulges in this approach to the expense of the story.

The storyline is slight, little more than a peg upon which to hang the various arguments and viewpoints. Satirical cartoonist Charlie (Ben Rigby) hooks up with much younger theological student Mike (Ben Bradfield) on a gay dating app. This, however, is a ruse; Mike has taken so much offence at one of Charlie’s cartoons, he intends to kill the cartoonist. Charlie must argue for his life, which is tricky as his default response is to turn a crisis into a joke, giving the impression he cannot take the situation seriously.

Director Scott Le Crass sets the mood for a debate rather than a thriller. At the opening, the stage is set with a row of chairs facing the audience as in a television political debate. There is little tension; the terror of arguing with someone whose absolute principles will not allow them to consider alternatives does not arise. Bitter experience has shown extremists prone to violence shoot first and set out their half-baked motivations afterwards; so, once Mike engages in an argument with Charlie, it is clear he is not going to go through with his threat.

There is potential for Je Suis Charlie to develop into a black comedy. Charlie responds to the menace with a series of jokes. As Ben Rigby delivers the lines with a degree of restrained panic and frustration, the approach suits the character, and the lines are funny. Mike produces a hidden hatchet, promoting the response a young man waving his chopper around is something of a wish fulfilled. Mike’s declaring himself an agent of God leads to questions about whether he applied for the role. But Mike’s refusal to rise to the jokes does not allow the routine to develop the momentum needed to become hysterical laughter and the comedy fizzles out.

Je Suis Charlie is an uneven play as the author’s sympathies lie with Charlie. Ben Bradfield is stuck with an undeveloped role. He does his best with body language communicating, even before Mike’s motivation is revealed, that he is repelled rather than attracted by Charlie’s advances. But considering Mike is a theology student, his arguments lack depth—simply trotting out well-known Bible quotations which condemn homosexuality. Mike also switches horses in midstream, initially condemning Charlie for drawing cartoons which are offensive to Christians, then, when that accusation runs out of steam, for being gay.

If Mike’s arguments lack depth, Charlie is something of a polymath, able to put forward lucid arguments on how satirical dissent helps to promote religion or how visual art was used to communicate religious concepts before the written word. It is interesting but so one-sided as to become more of a lecture than an argument—Mike does not really have a chance. Charlie shows a marked lack of self-awareness, never considering his cartoons might have an adverse impact upon people who are not the intended targets of his satire or any remorse when confronted with the possibility.

Both characters lack background. While it is clear Mike is a Christian, we never find out if he is Protestant or Catholic. The sheer amount of knowledge Charlie has about religion hints at some past trauma—a lapsed Catholic or even a failed priest—but this is never explored, and he remains simply a know-all.

Whilst there are plenty of stimulating ideas in Je Suis Charlie,there isn’t much of a story.

Reviewer: David Cunningham

*Some links, including Amazon,,, ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre, BTG Tickets, Ticketmaster, The Ticket Factory, LW Theatres and QuayTickets, are affiliate links for which BTG may earn a small fee at no extra cost to the purchaser.

Are you sure?