By divine intervention, or a sheer stroke of genius, one of the performance dates of Jammie Dodger, the latest creation from rising star Gaël van den Bossche, falls on Valentine’s Day. In many ways it is the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day piece, injecting a little bit of the dark side into staples of domestic bliss such as board game nights, homemade jam, and brunch. A delightful farce filled to the brim with double-crossing, backstabbing and hilarity, van den Bossche and director Alberto Lais lead their cast to high-energy glory.
Best friends Beth (Charlotte Bloomsbury), Dierdre (Lottie Davies) and Mary Sue have found a simple way to escape impending police custody as a result of their failed homemade jam pyramid scheme: kill their dreary husbands and then flee to America by boat where new identities and a new life await them. Beth manages this with relative ease, and is ready to flee only to be met by Dierdre, who has lost her nerve, and her ultra-needy and ultra-alive husband Chadwick (David Fenne). More visitors arrive and chaos ensues.
Reminiscent of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, Jammie Dodger combines punchy comedic timing and a fantastic ensemble cast to create something which plays with the ridiculous but never goes over the top. It melds levity and dark, dark humour to hammer home the age old adage “cheaters and murderers never prosper”. This unique mixture permeates through the entire production, from Céline Ribard’s impressive graphic design to its razor-sharp script.
Its far-fetched murders and machinations are offset by its relatable portrait of the central players in a couples domestic life. The saccharine neighbour who can’t read the room and is slightly sinister for a reason that escapes us (I blame the jumper) is a character played to perfection by the delightful James Cassir. Alexander Lopez plays your friend’s useless boyfriend whose potential is only visible to him, and Fenne gives a standout performance as the uber-sensitive, panic attack-having Chadwick who at times makes us sympathise with Dierdre’s intentions.
Bloomsbury and Davies drive the play forward as they play friends, then enemies, then friends again at a pace that makes your head spin. Their shifts in power dynamic are expertly carried out, and with their creepy neighbours and weird husbands, they have the uncanny ability to make you root for them, both as a pair and individually.
Murderously funny Jammie Dodger is that rare dark comedy that brings wonder and hilarity to the mundane, and darkness to something as sweet as jam.
Jammie Dodger played until 14 February. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.