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Review: Jesus, Jane, Mother & Me

Jesus Jane Mother and Me

By: Sara Lamerton, TRP Reviewer


What do Jesus and Jane McDonald have in common? Not much, you might conclude. But you’d be mistaken. Or at least in the eyes of superfan Daniel Valentine (Jack Stokes), the protagonist of Philip Stokes’ critically acclaimed play Jesus, Jane, Mother & Me, who finds divine connection in his relationships with both the son of God and the cruise ship, ballard belting, loose woman.

Flamboyantly eccentric from the get go, Daniel’s larger than life persona sweeps the audience along in his personality whirlwind, retelling the story of his life up to that point. We meet him just after turning 18, agonising over the perfect wording for his Mother’s Day card, whilst he simultaneously rages at Joyce, the nosey, ungrateful neighbour with dirty alcoves.

To be fair, it isn’t just Joyce that’s got him vexed. He doesn’t have much good to say about anyone apart from his “very dominant” mother, at this point. There are a few exceptions here and there. A few nostalgic tales of godly, church going souls bestowing gifts on him as a small child. Their kindness offered to a boy whose caregiver prioritised wine and fags over nourishing her only child with something more than disdain, baked beans and cheesestrings.

We quickly learn that it’s not only at home where there’s trouble. School offers no comfort, no support, no friendship. Bullied and vulnerable, Daniel’s air of overt-confidence soon starts to crack as a deeply wounded character who, underneath everything, desperately wants to be seen and loved, starts to emerge.

Needing something to cling to, something to devote himself to, Jesus becomes Daniel’s very first idol. Initially Jesus offers salvation. A rapturous inspiration taking him beyond the lonely disconnect he feels in this everyday life. Yet, as time goes by, Jesus doesn’t quite fill that mother-shaped void growing in his home and heart.  Then, one evening, as if by divine intervention, through a crowd induced panic-attack, Jane McDonald descends like an angel, sweeping both mother and son into a frenzy of fantasticism.

Exhilarated after this first encounter with the down-to-earth, Northern diva, Daniel is emboldened with fresh purpose. Soon a shrine is built; an obsession fervently fuelled. For a brief moment, he feels connected to his mother – loved, wanted, embraced. Jane becomes a symbol of unity. A higher power healing his mother-wound. That is until he notices changes. Inevitably a new man enters their lives, and their shared connection to Jane is ripped away from under him, causing extreme withdrawals.

Daniel’s precarious, already isolated existence unravels further. Confused, his first thought is that he’s done something wrong. That he’s the source of his mother’s disdain and indifference. Unfortunately, things go from bad to worse, and it’s not long before Daniel is kicked out of home at the tender age of 16. Completely alone, spiralling further into despair, there’s nowhere to turn. No one to connect with. Mother made sure of that. Yet, in spite of it all, he still longs for a connection with her; to feel her embrace and warmth once more. And as the story climaxes, it’s clear that simmering under the surface of Daniel’s nonchalant manner something has grown. Festered. A malignant, unhinged entity fed by all that has befallen his intensely fateful existence.

Sometimes you see something so unique, so surprising, so captivating that it evokes genuine emotion and reflection. Simply put, Jesus, Jane, Mother & Me is that thing. Confident, deeply dark, Jack’s performance as the complex Daniel Valentine is sensational. The intensity of which he portrays his story is a marvel. If you’re a fan of unexpected, humorous, yet tragically poignant tales, don’t miss this show. I have rarely seen a solo performance as spellbinding and whole-hearted. A story that moved me, and several others, to tears by the final scene, and no doubt beyond the show itself. From my experience, standing ovations in the Drum aren’t a common occurrence, but this young man deserved every clap, every sodden cheek and wobbling chin, every single body standing to show their appreciation of a talented performer who gave his all to Daniel’s tragic, untimely fate.



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