Jasmine Lee-Jones was the winner of Evening Standard Award 2019 and Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright for her play ‘seven methods of killing Kylie jenner‘. Her new play ‘Curious’, is a voyage of discovery which makes use of Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives to help drive the narrative.
She plays Jaz, a Black, queer, drama school student forced to play a very minor role in a Restoration play. But as one of the only two black students, she has to share the role of a servant with the other. Boredom, frustration and alienation lead her to try to find out whether there were any Black actors in the 18th century.
The discovery in the BCA of Celia Edlyne – actor, part-time prostitute and lover of women – who was born in 1717 in Nigeria and sold as a slave, is the start of a journey into both the past and the present – a reflection on what it means to be a Black, gay woman at the beginning of her adulthood. It’s a story of trial and error, open-hearted love and friendship, sexual exploration and the search for identity. Life’s pitfalls, stumbles, irritations and minor triumphs are related with disarming and often hilarious honesty.
Lee-Jones plays the lead and all the supporting roles and moves easily between the present and the past and the array of characters. The script, her performance and clever staging, bring them to life in bedrooms, a Top Shop changing room, a lesbian club, the drama school, the BCA and various London suburbs. A particular joy is the up to the minute recreations of life and talk on London streets. And the relationship between Jaz and wayward best friend Mon is a little piece of genius – funny, believable but ultimately tragic.
This is a profound play with much to say, but it is very often said with humour. Get ready for Jaz’s very funny asides, mannerisms and witty descriptions – her vibrator named Aladdin; Croydon as the deep south and a new definition of period drama. Although there’s more than a little skilfully delivered stand-up comedy, the play never loses its serious intent.
At its heart is a very sure-footed performance from a very talented writer and performer. And while this is in essence a monologue, Lee-Jones more than holds your attention for 90 minutes. It’s well-paced, visually engaging and insightfully written. The ending is both abrupt and shocking, but forces you to check back on the play and reflect upon its purpose.
‘Curious’ written and performed by Jasmine Lee-Jones, directed by Anna Himali Howard with design by Camilla Clarke and Rosie Elnile, runs in the Soho Theatre until 16 October.
Tickets from £17. For further details visit www.sohotheatre.com