Jesus Hopped The ‘A’ Train

3103a25d-481f-4287-a2c6-3b1f0726a69b-284-000000233939d426Young Vic. On until 30 March

This darkly comic, thought provoking play has a perfect cast of characters: a young man awaiting trial for shooting a cult leader in the arse to try and rescue his buddy, a charismatic serial killer who manipulates all but the most sadistic of guards around him, and a defence lawyer who feels a moral sense of purpose to help those who stand up for themselves.

Set on a traverse stage with perspex walls and doors, we’re reminded of the subway ‘A’ train of the title.  Many scenes become verbal battles pitched back and forth between the characters as they tell their stories, lies or myths.  Angel (played superbly by Ukweli Roach) is the angry young man pitched into the American justice system awaiting trial.  We first meet him in his cell attempting to recite the Lord’s Prayer but stumbling over the word “hallowed” as clearly this is an unfamiliar recitation for him, but one he feels he needs in this moment of crisis.  And when he meets his lawyer (Dervla Kirwan) he rejects her for not looking like the type of lawyer he’s seen on TV, like Columbo, in a suit and with a moustache!

Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, whose only previous work I’d seen was the National’s staging of The Motherfucker with the Hat (and which I’ll be honest underwhelmed me), here brings vivid stories and characters to life with a sharpness of writing that is beguiling.  The charismatic serial killer Lucius, played superbly by Oberon K. A. Adjepong, had me convinced I too would be smuggling him in special Oreos for him if I were in there with him.  Whilst Valdez (Joplin Sibtain) as the sadist prison guard had quickly turned the whole audience against him, and yet it was only through his cruelty that he protected himself from the charms and wiles of Lucius.

The themes of good and evil, right and wrong, salvation and redemption are not too far from the surface, but not thickly layered on as you’re swept along by Angel’s story and where it will end.  False prophets are here too, both in Lucius and the unnamed cult leader Angel shoots.  Angel can see the latter as one to rescue his friend from, but fails to see the danger of his fellow prisoner. Like the Mary Jane, Angel’s lawyer, who risks her career to save Angel, we as the audience are willing Angel on to do his best on the stand and be freed.  Whether it was the writing, the acting or the perfect alchemy between the two, but I too would have risked it all to save Angel.  And there perhaps is no better praise for the play and this production.

This current season of the Young Vic is certainly proving to be exciting, refreshing and unmissable.

February 15. (Downstairs B53-4)

17/20

February Picks

img_8991So for February I’ve got the following plays booked up:

9 to 5 The Musical @ Savoy Theatre – the classic comedy film from 80s brought to life as a musical with songs by Dolly Parton, this couldn’t get much camper if it tried!

Berberian Sound Studio @ Donmar Warehouse – probably couldn’t get more of a contrast in film adaptations with Peter Strickland’s darkly comic horror coming to the stage.

Jesus Hopped the A Train @ Young Vic – hoping the combination of the dark comedy set on murderers’ row, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, will maintain the Young Vic’s impressive new season.

Shipwreck @ Almeida – new play by the tremendous Anne Washburn (Mr Burns will never ever leave me!) and directed by Artistic Director Rupert Goold.

When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other @ National Theatre – the ballot-only production with Cate Blanchett that had sold out is now garnering some terrible reviews! Oh well only one way to find out if this is a turkey is to see it myself.

Gently Down the Stream @ Park Theatre is a new play by Martin Sherman who wrote the award-winning play Bent.

And I’m still yet to get around to book the following:

Nine Night @ Trafalgar Studios – having failed to squeeze this in at the end of last year I’ve got to get to see it before it ends its run on 23 February.

The Son @ Kiln – the UK premiere of the latest play from the prolific and intriguing playwright Florian Zeller (The Mother, The Father, The Truth, The Height of the Storm) – I’ve seen every one produced in London over the last few years.

Pinter 7 @ Harold Pinter Theatre – having seen all but Pinter 4 so far, it would be quite nice to add this one with Martin Freeman and Danny Dyer, but we’ll see.