Review: Jinny at Derby Theatre. Companion piece to Look Back In Anger.

five star

Derby Theatre’s Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Sarah Brigham is committed to bringing new writing and new voices to the Derby Theatre stages and beyond. As a curtain raiser to Look Back In Anger and part of the RETOLD series (a new writing series retelling classic plays from a female perspective) they commissioned Chesterfield born writer Jane Wainwright to create the mono drama Jinny. Wainwright spent a research and development period meeting women aged 25 (Jimmy Porter’s age) across Derby asking them for their take on class, feminism, love dreams, ambitions and – essential to the companion piece – what they were angry about.

The programme notes say that “Interestingly, many felt similar to Jimmy – there was no open door to a good job no matter how talented to were. They felt frustration towards the life plan they felt society still imposed onto them and were discouraged that the voices they heard on their stages, in newspapers and in films didn’t represent their experience. Jane has taken their wit, their fears and their ambitions and has created a female Jimmy Porter for 2016 in the play Jinny.”

There is a big difference between Osborne’s 1956 play and Jane Wainwright’s witty and poignant version and that is that Jinny Porter comes out fighting compared to Jimmy Porter’s sad repetition of an angry and basically unfulfilled life. Jinny gives out a feeling of hard won hope for the present and her future and this working class young woman comes out fighting optimistically against her odds.

Jinny a Derby Theatre Production (Joanna Simpkins as Jinny) Photography by Robert Day

The Look Back In Anger set (used for Jinny) is modernised by adding throws over the 1950s furniture and is replete with contemporary ephemera. A modern ironing board stands in exactly the same place as in Osborne’s play and becomes a strong link between the two plays.

Joanna Simpkins plays Jinny with generous and expansive style: a young woman happy in her cycling shorts and baggy shirt: a young woman not afraid to kick an ironing board when the shit hits the proverbial fan or thrash on a guitar at an open mike session. She has ambitions to be a singer songwriter. Her degree appears to have failed her and she reluctantly tells the gripped (she is tremendously engaging in the mono drama) audience that she works at WH Smith and lives in a shared flat in a life very like her student experience. Her Nana is her best friend and confidant; her mother best forgotten for the amount of love and support she neglects to offer Jinny. People can be misinterpreted in life especially close family and this may prove to be the case with Jinny’s estranged mother.

The cherished Nana is going senile and phones Jinny about irregular things; about imaginary things; about her dead husband to whom she thinks she is speaking abusively to. Suffering from the onset of dementia Nana puts Jinny’s emotional security at risk and makes her realise that that special love won’t always be around. Even more immediate is the threat that the shared apartment is being taken away by the landlady within a week. Jinny puts this to one side while she attempts to deal with all that is going on around her. Jinny gets very angry. There is particular anger at European cultures representation of womanhood. Jinny gets called Jenny a lot and the music business she so longs to be a part of lets her down with their middle management ideas of her becoming their puppet feminist singer. “Menstruation is trending” becomes one of the funniest ironic lines in the show.

Jinny a Derby Theatre Production (Joanna Simpkins as Jinny) Photography by Robert Day

So far this reviewer hasn’t put across what an enormously funny show this is. Jinny is gloriously peopled with characters and bizarre incidents (bordering on the surreal as a giant McDonalds’ M shape shifts in Jinny’s fevered imagination) capitalising on Joanna Simpkins energy filled talent for story telling. At one point we start to believe that we are hurtling dangerously through the crowded streets and back alleys of Derby on Jinny’s ironing board bike and in the next moment laughing in semi repulsion as she recoils from the knowledge that the back of her cycling shorts are covered in purple sick. There is a feel of the best of observational comedy in this piece of theatre.

This superb fifty minute one woman show by Jane Wainwright is greatly enhanced by Ivan Stott’s sound design and lighting by Arnim Friess as well as the directorial talents of Sarah Brigham. Even if you don’t get to see Look Back In Anger Jane Wainwright’s Jinny is definitely worth the ticket price and take your teenage and twenty-plus daughters too!

Box Office: 01332 593939

Phil Lowe

East Midlands Theatre review for Look Back In Anger click ANGER.

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