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Theatre review Lockdown blues

SIMON PARSONS welcomes a new play that examines the Covid pandemic through the lens of a disintegrating marriage

Jab
Finborough Theatre, London

FOUR years since the Covid lockdown, the memory is still fresh in most people’s minds, but James McDermott’s play is a worthwhile reflection on the scarring impact of the event.

Seen through the eyes of a couple in their sixties, this domestic drama works as a series of brief scenes, almost like a photo album, mapping the disintegration of their long marriage during the months of confinement while external snippets of news remind us of the deadly progress of the virus and the government’s responses.

Anne is an NHS administrative worker and the breadwinner for the household, while Don runs an unprofitable vintage clothing shop, more as a hobby than a business.

Their successful 29 years together are evident from their joyously tipsy dance routine at the start and the positive memories that re-emerge during their initial time in lockdown, but those memories turn ever more bitter as the isolation bites.

Kacey Ainsworth gives a memorable performance as a key worker who is forced to engage with the reality of the epidemic through her work, her realistic fears challenged by Liam Tobin’s insular optimism and myopic ignorance as Don. His reactionary judgments to the vaccine drawn from the Daily Mail’s scaremongering reports, poor health and inaction only adding to the tensions and shaping the inevitable outcome. 

The couple become increasingly alienated as the banter turns to bickering and then to outright accusations and insults while the old memories transform into weapons to hurl at one another. The simple set of four chairs is the symbolic battleground for the state of their marriage as their physical relationship disintegrates to the point of becoming sexually abusive.

Director Scott Le Crass handles the final scenes skilfully with a fleeting series of anxious telephone calls to the hospital and a brief glimpse of life after lockdown concluding with a strikingly effective opening of a theatre window on to the real world outside. Although predictable, this is timely reflection of the individuals behind the statistics that are coming to define Covid.

Runs until March 16. Box office: (020) 7244-7439, finboroughtheatre.co.uk.

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