By: Holly Wigmore, TRP Reviewer
It’s often interesting to delve into someone’s past and find out that they’re a super-fan of something or someone; especially when that seems so unlikely connected to their personality. This is the case for Daniel Valentine, our utterly compelling and often eccentric protagonist who’s devoted to his two favourite things in life…Jesus, and Jane; as he takes us on a journey of discovery of what compels people to follow unlikely idols in life.
Standing alone, donning nothing but a pair of chequered boxers and a striped shirt; Jack Stokes is simply phenomenal. He’s taken playwright Phillip Stokes’ script and hit every right note in an utter tour de force that makes this story feel authentically relatable. From the minute we step into The Drum, he seems to be aimlessly wandering around the set, drinking Lambrini and peering out onto the stage from inside his Mother’s home. By the looks of the boarded windows and boxes of clothes cluttering the space, the space is seemingly abandoned but it’s a haven of family connection that acts as Daniel’s space of comfort. You’re entranced before you even hear him speak.
It’s the accent that immediately grasps you, an Oxford-esque flamboyancy about it that makes you want to hear every aspect of his story, and if you’re looking for comedy, this is the show for you. As the self-described “boy who came out backwards, pushing on forwards”, his narrative begins euphoric, giggling and jokingly discussing his upbringing; letting his arms do most of the talking. He expresses his love for his mother, for the community of the Church who did so much for them; bringing stability to his childhood. His devotion to religion is undeniable, with the parental duty of a father figure even falling to his Reverend as a guiding mentor.
That’s where Jesus and Mother come in, but if you’re wondering who Jane is; this Yorkshire diva arrives on the scene in what Daniel and his mother would call the second coming of Christ himself. It’s Daniel’s first-ever trip to the theatre and he’s as entranced as we are whilst watching him…whether like him this is your first time at Theatre (Royal Plymouth) or if it’s your hundredth show, this electric feeling of joy is shared by the entire auditorium as the duo attend a live concert from none other than Jane McDonald. But what follows is a dark spiral of obsession, that starts comedic and joyful, that ends spiralling out of control; ending with a finale that none of us expected…with an utterly well-deserved standing ovation.
In 70 minutes alone, Jack takes us on an undeniable whirlwind of emotions, as the monologue unfolds ,to be a tragicomedy that has you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It’s not only beautifully acted, but also wonderfully written that I could even call hypnotic at times–you’re so enthralled and entertained by a story that feels like it’s being told by an old friend. When you pair this with a suitably disorderly set design, showcasing what it’s like to have a tendency to live in the past, with memories of better times in an anguished present; alongside a sublime lighting design that truly transports you into Daniel’s reality, both coming from Craig Lomas, the creative team behind Jesus, ,Jane, Mother & Me is a force to be reckoned with; and this showcase of talents is essential for the show’s success.
If you’re looking for a night as magical and exhilarating as when Daniel first met Jane, this is the show for you. Placing the spotlight on the vulnerability of vital family connections and what obsessive behaviours can lead to, this play leaves you not wanting any more. It’s perfection and leaves you gasping until the minute the auditorium falls into complete darkness. Simply not to be missed.
As part of its UK tour, Jesus, Jane, Mother & Me is running at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 24th June 2023, with performances at 7:45 pm each night with a single matinee at 2:45 on Saturday 24th June.