Arts, OldVenue

Review: Half a Person

Jimmy is just your average sexually confused 16 year old from Sheringham, about an hour’s drive from UEA, who idolises the man, the myth, the legend: Morrissey. Half A Person, brilliantly written by promising writer James McDermott, utilises a tightknit chorus who narrate a day in the life of Jimmy with so much energy one would think they’d eaten a whole packet of Haribo each as they bounce around the stage to the delight of the audience. The chorus transform themselves into OAPS, a Boys PE class and best of all a hilariously camp imagining of what a gay bar would look like complete with a YMCA dance routine. Perhaps where this ingenious play differs from standard scripts is its level of self-awareness as Jimmy proclaims he’s a ‘protagonist’ with a sense of wonder as he realises he has a story worth telling as he attempts to gather together enough money to see Moz at the O2 in the exotic London. As well as self-aware, Jimmy appears to suffer delusions of grandeur as he compares himself to Oscar Wilde and Morrissey himself, but we still sympathise with his innocence and sensitivity towards his sexuality. How refreshing it is to finally watch a play which deals with the two massive elephants in the room during everyone’s teenage years: sex and sexuality. As Jimmy steals money and ducks away from ticket inspectors the chorus commentate on his peril providing much of the comedy, occasionally breaking the fourth wall and pulling audience members up on stage, much to their horror. Jimmy then backs out on Bonnie, his flirtatious Tinder date, and Michael, a ‘Pudsey bear’ figure he meets at a gay bar, despite forward propositions from both, instead finding a completely different love interest elsewhere.

After rejecting both genders Jimmy is more confused than ever until he encounters someone who doesn’t define themselves by either gender. Despite paying off a mugger instead of standing up to them he strikes a chord with this mysterious figure who is being attacked despite asking the clumsy question “What are you?” The reply perhaps sums up the overriding message of the play, “Our names are the only labels that matter”. So when we find out that this person is also a massive fan of Morrissey and they fall for each other we realise that gender and sexuality are not important. Likewise, when we find out that due to illness the Morrissey concert is cancelled it doesn’t matter because Jimmy has found someone else to replace the Morrissey shaped hole in his life. The ending does feel a tad dragged out, however, after he bids farewell to his love interest and befriends the bully, talks to his mum and is informed of elderly Mrs M passing away (“79 she was”). Overall, however, the blend of Morrissey references and songs with the overall message to not judge a book by its cover combine to make a beautifully sentimental, bonkers and thoroughly entertaining play thanks to a highly energetic cast and an intelligent script.

23/02/2016

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D.Struthers