Anna Reynolds with Moira Buffini
The King's Arms, Salford
Jordan is an ideal play for the fringe. It can be staged with limited resources and the harrowing subject matter, essentially a modern version of Medea, may be a bit strong for mainstream theatre. Of course, to be successful it requires a very strong performer which, fortunately, Easy Company can offer.
Shirley Jones (sole performer Sara Gray) chats with the audience. She is a lively speaker, keeping the audience engaged and making lots of eye contact. Shirley is telling a fairy story which is appropriate as this is a fantasy; in reality, she is a broken shell of a woman; compulsively recalling an unspeakable crime she committed not in an effort to exorcise guilt but instead to punish herself by remembering.
Jordan is based upon a true-life incident and the script by Anna Reynolds and Moira Buffini is realistically, even relentlessly, bleak. Shirley has so few options when abandoned by her boyfriend, she turns to prostitution, reasoning she has experience and might as well get paid. It is difficult to relate to Shirley as she is a blank—without aspirations or interests; escaping her hometown is the height of her ambitions. The unwanted birth of her child, Jordan, unexpectedly gives Shirley a sense of purpose but her abusive boyfriend, Davy, cannot tolerate his punching bag gaining self-respect. When Davy seeks custody of their son, Shirley, lacking any options, is forced into tragic action.
Director Robbie Carnegie takes a minimalist approach, lighting changes are subtle, and the only background noise is the faint echo of seaside sounds. As a result, Shirley has no distractions from her guilt. When Sara Gray leaves the chair in the centre of the stage, her movements are tight and limited as if she has become accustomed to being in an enclosed space like a gaol cell.
Sara Gray’s performance is disturbing. The monologue is a confession but Gray’s intensity is unflinching and self-lacerating as if seeking punishment rather than forgiveness. Gray’s eyes are heavy-lidded and sleepy as if Shirley is coping only by being sedated into a degree of self-control. She behaves as if utterly exhausted, worn out by her circumstances and wanting only to bring things to a conclusion. At times, Gray behaves like the condemned on the gallows, pointing out the ludicrous aspects of her situation: Shirley’s mother worrying the neighbours will know she is visiting her daughter in prison.
Jordan is a tragic tale not in the sense the character’s flaws make her fate inevitable but rather the lack of options push Shirley into her crime. The play takes place as Shirley waits to find out if she is to go to gaol but really, she has been imprisoned all her life.
Reviewer: David Cunningham