Photo: Marc Brenner

Since the pandemic hit we’ve generally been giving live shows the benefit of the doubt – we’re aware that many may have had difficult journeys from concept to stage, plays have been cancelled, postponed and rearranged, rehearsals may not have gone as planned or to schedule, restrictions have changed at short notice… the list goes on. We’ve been happy to turn a blind eye to minor, occasional shortcomings if the overall experience is still enjoyable. However, Kerry Jackson sadly falls far short of the high standards we usually expect from the National Theatre.

It has a redeeming feature in that Cold Feet’s Fay Ripley does her best with the material she’s been given as the titular Kerry; hers is a lively and energetic performance which held our attention. In this new play, Kerry is a leave-voting entrepreneur who has opened a Spanish restaurant in the gentrified Walthamstow Village. She comes with all the stereotypes you might expect, hating the homeless and disagreeing vehemently with the educated left-leaning liberals she encounters. At least we’re able to derive a handful of laughs from some silly dancing and singing routines; she has a couple of amusing lines and lands them well.

All the characters are pretty one-dimensional and pander to stereotypes; the writing lacks nuance, with our assorted crew oftentimes reduced to simply saying out loud who they are, what they’re doing and what they stand for. It all just seems so improbable – there’s surely a better way to tell this sort of class comedy than parachuting six caricatures with opposing views into a tapas restaurant and watching them clash. Everything just feels clichéd, tired and underwhelming.

If it wasn’t abundantly clear we were really disappointed with Kerry Jackson. We’ve come to expect an exceptionally high standard at the National Theatre and we’ve enjoyed many of the new plays we’ve seen premiere at the smaller Dorman Theatre space. Unfortunately, while the actors try to make something of the material, at its core this just isn’t an enjoyable play. We’ve seen various class comedies, and plays about recent political discourse, done so much better than this; and with an abundance of wonderful shows on in town this festive season, we’d suggest giving this one a miss.

GAY TIMES gives Kerry Jackson – 1/5

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