Harry’s (Mark Bonnar) and Max’s (Jane Horrocks) son Nick (Brian Vernel) is dead. His parents don’t seem that distraught; they have a flatpack replacement “premium product” son called “Jån” (also Brian Vernel) arriving. The audience is carried along in the good humour that this son will turn out all right, but, of course, there are deep, unresolvable issues at play.
Everything takes place in a heightened reality, conveyed by the deranged yet recognisable dialogue (Thomas Eccleshare) in scenes highlighting inter-parent rivalry and how to programme the “correct”, centrist view on immigration. Though ostensibly a colourful comedy, there is something dark and disturbing at the centre. There is something chilling about seeing a robot programmed with all the same views everyone in the white, middle-class, Sloane Square audience shares, and wishes to pass onto their children.
The narrative plays out non-chronologically, and at first it’s easy to distinguish Nick and Jån by the physical appearance (featuring some fun illusions by Paul Kieve), character, and dialogue. As time goes on, it becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain who is who, and when is when. As the loop between Nick and Jån gradually closes up, the set (Cai Dyfan) gradually opens up; a dizzying experience.
Some interpretive ensemble dance, including crab-like shuffling during the scene changes, doesn’t quite land, but these are fleeting moments within a charged and shocking work. Some may find the 100 minutes lack an overall structure, others may enjoy the fact you have no idea where the story is going, until the very end. A phenomenal cast means this provocative work will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
Meet Jån until 19 May. £12 day seats are available.