I, WILL JONES
19/09/2017 - 23/09/2017
A true-ish story about friendship, Animorphs, and becoming the person you want to be.
If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be?To Eamonn Marra, twelve years old, the answer is obvious: Will Jones, the coolest kid in intermediate. When Eamonn and Will end up at the same high school, both at the bottom of the heap, Eamonn gets a chance to live his dream – he strikes a deal with Will to switch lives, a couple of hours at a time, like the Animorphs in those books. Finally, Eamonn can be the person he wants to be, if only for a little bit… but what happens when that’s no longer enough?
The third show from comedian and writer Eamonn Marra (AotearoHA: Rising Stars, Respite), directed by New Zealand Fringe Award-winning director Adam Goodall (Stand Up Love, Proficiency Test), I, Will Jones is a provocative and hilarious story from one of New Zealand’s most highly-regarded up-and-coming comedians about the people we are and the people we’d rather be.
The Propeller Stage @ BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
19 – 23 September 2017
Theatre , Solo ,
Relaxation and anxiety beautifully balanced
Review by Tim Stevenson 20th Sep 2017
Eamonn Marra’s one man show, I, Will Jones, is mostly about the stuff Marra did when he was 12 and 13 in order to be accepted and, if possible, cool and popular at school. The main settings for Marra’s 12 and 13-year-old exploits are two Christchurch schools: Opawa School – which, judging by his narrative, was mostly okay – and Shirley Boys’ High, which Marra represents as offering the familiar unofficial curriculum of bullying and hands-on training in jock values and achievements.
All this is evoked vividly and to good comic effect by Marra. Details such as the lexicon of cool at Opawa School, including the right vowels to have in your name and how to lean on a bike, are precisely observed and hilarious. They are received with rowdy approval by the first night audience.
There’s plenty of dark mixed in with the light. We get quite a bit about living in a culture of bullying (interestingly, Marra includes what it’s like being a bully, as well as the more usual being on the receiving end), and experiences with body image and body shame. The overriding theme is one of not being accepted for what you are, and the sorts of amusing/sad stratagems a 12-13 year-old kid comes up with to deal with non-acceptance.
The show reaches well beyond making-it-through-school comic standards such as how to get past the bullies and in with the in crowd, and how to impress the gender of choice. A lot of the narrative is organised around Marra’s efforts to inhabit the body and personality of friend and fellow student, cool, capable Will Jones. He gets help towards achieving this particular ambition from fictional characters the Animorphs who, in case you haven’t read the books, conveniently have the ability to transform into animals.
The show ends with Marra looking back over how he got on with his life-switching aspirations and reflecting on why someone might be driven to want to do that, and what he thinks about it all now.
I, Will Jones is built on a solid foundation constructed out of Marra’s ability to select the telling, convincing detail, his engaging stage persona – a beautifully balanced combination of relaxation and anxiety – and the show’s physical design (see below). I particularly like the way he uses props and the whole stage to keep the story moving and hold our interest with variety and movement.
The show’s narrative doesn’t always quite make it when stretching up and out to more ambitious heights. In particular, the final sequence stumbles somewhat, with the match between ideas and supporting material seeming a bit loose and tentative. The old showbiz saying goes, “Leave ’em wanting more,” and in a way, I, Will Jones does just that; this viewer would be interested in what more Marra could make out of the same themes.
Lots of credit to those who contributed to the show’s design: Adam Goodall (director), Harriet Denby (production designer), Emi Pogoni (sound designer) and Michael Trigg (lighting designer).
[Note: And earlier draft of I, Will Jones was presented as I, Will Brown in March 2016.]
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