Jess and Joe Forever

Zoe Cooper
Farnham Maltings
Traverse Theatre

Nicola Coughlan and Rhys Isaac-Jones Credit: David Monteith-Hodge

This two-hander started life at Farnham Maltings and arrives at the Traverse via Richmond’s Orange Tree.

The play presents difficulties for reviewers, since its primary theme is only revealed after an hour or so of the 70 minutes.

Suffice to say that Jess and Joe, played by Nicola Coughlan and Rhys Isaac-Jones, are misfits who find comfort in each other’s company.

We first meet them at 9 and follow progress at intervals up to 15. There are ups and downs in their relationship but bigger changes affect the pair independently.

Jess is a girl who meets local boy Joe when her London-based family visits their Norfolk country home. She is heading for boarding school, he the local comp.

As the story develops, inarticulate Joe has trouble at school and becomes branded “a freak”, while Jess’s family falls apart and their wealth dissipates.

The surprise comes in those last minutes, which take the play into a completely different genre and colour everything that has gone before.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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