Daniel Krupnik Productions, Amanda Holland, Park Theatre
Jason’s parents are against him going to raves and taking the drug MDMA (ecstasy). They considered reporting him to the police but decide instead to give him a shock by staging his mock funeral.
It’s a strange idea but Peter Quilter’s play Saving Jason is set in 1995 when there were many strange responses to the rave culture.
There was at the time hysterical competition between the media, police and politicians to denounce the rave scene. They were seriously worried about young people gathering in large numbers to dance all night with the help of drugs.
As newspapers warned that you could end up in a mental hospital or sexually assaulted without your knowledge, the BBC banned the word ‘acid’ from Top the Pops and parliament passed new laws which solemnly defined the musical threat as being “characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”. Police suspecting someone was involved in these activities were given the power to “arrest him without a warrant.”
In such a context, the overreaction of Jason’s parents is understandable. They talk about disturbing reports in the Daily Mail and the death of the young girl Leah Betts who had taken ecstasy.
However, there is an inconsistency in their behaviour. They object to Jason’s behaviour but his mother Linda (Tor Clark) and his aunt Angela (Julie Armstrong) have serious drink problems. Angela is also popping pills and Jason’s dad Trevor (William Oxborrow) responds to pressure by shutting himself in the living room cupboard.
Unfortunately, these are all presented as slapstick geared more to laughs than any serious exploration of the issues. They didn’t even get laughs the night I attended.
Part of what was supposed to be funny was the caricatured presentation of almost all the characters. They squabble about trivia as they set out food for the funeral guests and insult each other during the funeral. But what they say is neither interesting nor particularly imaginative.
The actors try to lift the slow-moving story by exaggerating mannerisms in a style reminiscent of satires such as Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party.
Jacques Miche as Jason is the exception. He seems to arrive on stage from a different, more realistic play. His initial reactions are rational and naturalistic. When he tells the family they are being ridiculous, we mentally nod and hope they will get on with a better play. They don’t, and even he goes off the rails, stripping off his clothes and throwing them at his family.
By the interval, he has overturned the food table and begun chucking food at everybody. Determined to get into the spirit of the chaos, they all spend the second half improbably dumping more things onto the carpet.
Not everyone will have seen this because some of the audience took the opportunity of the interval to flee the theatre. It meant they also missed the happy ending in which Jason came to a predictable if sentimental decision about his future drug use.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna