REVIEW: JAM (Finborough Theatre) ★★★★

Jam is the World Premiere of a fascinating play. A woman, sits comfortably, with shoes off, writing in a note book until the play begins. Her name is Bella and she suddenly becomes aware of another person, in the dark room, watching her. It is Kane, a former pupil from a previous school, with whom she had a difficult and destructive teacher pupil relationship some ten years before. Frankly, she hated him and with good reason.

At first the conversation is awkward. Bella wants Kane to leave the room and feels threatened. Kane is almost apologetic but over familiar, he is intent on reminding her of their shameful shared history. Their strained conversation and it’s implied menace forms the bulk of the play and the audience hung on every word. The conversation teases out their fractious history. Kane shows him self to be a lying arrogant bully and Bella, his innocent victim. She was a new teacher, undeserving of the cowardly, youthful cruelty once inflicted upon her. But he claims to be a changed person and she, ten years later, has hardened up, perhaps to the point of cynicism.

Kane was played by the excellent Harry Melling of Harry Potter, Dudley Dursley fame and has become a very fine actor. He has appeared in many other films and stage plays including King Lear at the Old Vic, I A Camera and so much more.

Bella was played by the brilliant Jasmine Hyde. She is a terrific actress who has appeared in all kinds of plays from Shakespeare’s Pericles to Charlie’s Aunt. Excellent.

This is a fascinating and highly recommended play. For me it brought back many, deeply buried, unwanted memories of my school years in the late fifties. Teachers who lose control of their classes and suffer for it. Teachers who are only too aware of the consequences of losing control and inflict regimes of fear on their classes.

Jam is an excellent production and I was surprised by the tension it builds and by the spark of unexpected humanity it shows.

Reviewed by Graham Archer