Jellyfish – A Review and Thoughts On Differences #theatre #review #thoughtpiece

I am a product of my upbringing and environment and have lived through many changes in attitude and the acceptability of cultural memes and the understanding of how societal approaches can impact others adversely. Today there’s a storm around the latest US Presidential twitterfart concerning four congresswomen and whether they should ‘go back’ to, in three cases, their ancestral homelands and for those who don’t like America to leave. It smacks of language and attitudes that were common when I was a teen but which, amongst people who are aware of the many differences that make up a multiethnic and multicultural population have disappeared from speech. Thank goodness.

But still, I find myself in knots, not at this most obvious example of offensiveness but the unintentional stupidities that we are all prone to.

I went to see a new play, recently transferred to the National Theatre ‘Jellyfish’. It’s a simple love story set in the down at heel faded glories of Skegness, one of many tired seaside resorts that dot the English coastline. There’s a protective mother, a feisty heroine, a diffident damaged young man and their wise, world-weary friend. So far, so trite. What makes this one different is that the heroine has Downs and so does the actress. The young man doesn’t. On the surface he’s ‘normal’ or that’s what I think were meant to believe. He too is damaged – you’ll need to see the play to understand it – and probably needs as much support as the lead.

What makes it a fascinating piece and challenges the audience to shelve their preconceptions and prejudices is the interplay between mother and daughter and the former’s understandable, if ultimately self-defeating attempts to persuade her daughter she is ‘as good as them’ ie the rest of us, yet treating her as different when it comes to adult relationships and especially sex and pregnancy.

It’s messy, awkward and uncomfortable and that was just me. It poses many questions I suspect we have all asked ourselves when dealing with anyone different from ourselves. We see the stereotype, the assumption, the facade and not the person.

Jess the super star of this production makes the point early with a crab she finds on the beach about assumptions. About identity and the importance of naming.

There are some nice touches and jokes, there’s some stilted parts and there is pathos and just a little understanding of what it’s like to be in Jess’s shoes. And the mother’s and the boyfriend’s who is treated as some sort of paedo-weirdo cross but needs her love as much as she his. She’s tougher, more robust than him though the assumptions from others is it’s the other way round.

If you liked ‘the Curious Incident of a Dog in the Nighttime’ then you may well enjoy this. Don’t expect to feel comfortable.

I also learnt a new word too: homophily – the tendency for people to seek out or be attracted to those who are similar to themselves. It seems to me that this is a bane of our complicated societies, be it hate crimes or Presidents sounding off on twitter or even an urge to decouple ourselves from Europe. I spent eight hours on Sunday going through agony as I watched England try and win a cricket World Cup. I screamed and cried and screamed some more. The objects of my ludicrous passions were eleven men of a mixtures of races, religions, creeds and backgrounds all of whom were desperate win a game for a bunch of equally disparate people. It couldn’t really have got more diverse and yet be so inclusive.

I may have wondered what sort of psychosis envelopes me that I will spend significant bundles of sterling to spend hours in an agony of indecision only to feel, not joy but gut ripping relief when it was all done and we had won. But there was one joy and that was the accumulation of differences that made up that team and that audience. Just call me mad if I say I’m going to watch another final.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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19 Responses to Jellyfish – A Review and Thoughts On Differences #theatre #review #thoughtpiece

  1. Paula Light says:

    Sounds like a disturbing yet interesting film. I’ll try to catch it, thanks.


  2. trifflepudling says:

    Sometimes I think I’m a smidge intolerant and then the current White House occupant spouts something like that and then I hear of someone in a pub in my nearest town who advised Coco to have a banana, and then I realise I’m ok really. I’ve been shocked at all the racist stuff on the FB cricket threads also. (Anyway, NZ had a Zimbabwean-born and an Indian-born on their team for that matter). That’s the way it is now, good and its opposite.
    I think I’d have managed the play as a film, but find theatre a bit embarrassing at the best of times! I do worry that there will be a backlash sooner or later re inclusivity etc, though. You can overcook it. It’s cuisine, not microwaving ready meals, and a less intensive approach is now needed.


  3. willowdot21 says:

    The play sounds fantastic 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had a laugh at your agony and ecstasy over the cricket. I can well imagine it and was glad I couldn’t see the game live – I might not have made it out alive! Like you I puzzle over all the racist slurs that jump over sporting team members. At last we live in a world that is truly a melting pot and this gives us an opportunity to extend our narrow views and experiences and become a global community….. I think that is where we are heading and we are have to drag the idiots – like the fart in the white house – kicking and screaming along behind us.We move forward one funeral at a time as Max Planck said. The play sounds excruciating too, another chance to be woken to other differences. I’d see the film if it ever gets made.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I like the quote. Very apposite. I, like you, remain hopeful that succeeding generations will make the progress we need even if, right now, we seem to be defaulting to extreme politics in pigeonholing right and left wing views . Maybe the last twitch of the populist corpse?

      Liked by 1 person

    • trifflepudling says:

      Excuse me joining your conversation, but I really feel the wrong people jumping on the bandwagon are endangering the whole thing. Already the public is becoming less tolerant, for example , and I think that is because the whole movement is becoming over-exposed. Change needs careful pacing, not in your face superficial junk (female 007, “manhole” covers, same sex partnership ads all over tv (holidays, phones, cars, John Lewis)). The play is a more thoughtful and useful vehicle.
      Apologies again for barging in, bit it worries me…


      • TanGental says:

        You and your strident feminism, Gilly


      • TanGental says:

        But balance is needed if as many people as possible are brought along. I certainly think most right thinking people understand to scoff and problems with manholes and female Bonds. Not sure why the same sex holiday ads cause you s problem though. And do barge in. You always have…!! And its always welcome


  5. Very insightful review. I am reminded of the Frost Downs syndrome episode – especially as we have just watched a repeat of the autistic one

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Norah says:

    It is good to challenge our perceptions sometimes and move us forward. Sometimes it’s only when our ideas are challenged that we realise what we think. The play does sound rather confronting.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rowena says:

    As a person with disability issues and part of that broader community in ways I never expected, it has been an eye-opener. One of the issues I find a concern is about terminating pregnancies when a disability is found. Now, in some instances the disability is clearly profound the pregnancy might not make it to term or the child will be profoundly disabled and unlikely to live more than a year or so. However, I realied last week that parents are questioing whether to terminate pregnancies with my condition. This was confronting. I have a variation of hydrocephalus called Dandy Walker variant and we believe is was caused by a traumatic birth. I was only diagnosed in my mid 20s and had an honours degree by then so either I would have been an absolute genius or it didn’t have a huge impact until things went pear shaped and I needed a shunt.. While it was a big deal at the time, I don’t think about it much anymore.
    I used to know a couple where the wife wasn’t real bright and she was sterilized as a teenager but went on to get married. That struck me as quite an injustice. Couldn’t have kids.
    I have been reading a bit of Darwin lately we talk about the survival of the fittest. But what is the fittest? Is it the most athletic, the smartest or does being kind and compassionate and being able to empathise with people rate a mention? Just because you have a disabililty, does that mean you should be put in a pot on top of Mt Olympus or the modern equivalent? Attitudes are changing which is good and the Paralympics have helped a lot.
    Anyway, before this turns into a thesis, I’ll head off.
    Best wishes,


    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Ro your perspective is fascinating. Yes the idea of sterilisation and abortion for potential disability is a whole minefield. Dandy Walker sounds like a 1950s cabaret singer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        I just took the name at face value initially. it seemed self explanatory as my gait had always been an issue and even my friends made fun of it at school, which I hope they feel a bit bad about now that they know the underlying cause. I wasn’t that bad that I was tested but not the most coordinated kid either. anyway, Dandy and Walker were the two doctors who discovered it. That doesn’t stop me from having a go at a bit of cabaret or even karaoke. I have no shame.

        Liked by 1 person

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