Keeping Down with the Joneses ★★★★☆

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Featuring a highly strung MP, a theologically confused milkman, and an angry pornographer – this is without a doubt the most unashamedly funny production I have seen from Theatre Group all year.

Keeping Down with the Joneses follows a quirky English family in the midst of the Cold War battening down the hatches in fear of a Russian nuclear attack. Hilarity ensues when Geoffrey Jones (Joel Jackson) and his family are trapped 25 feet below ground in a nuclear bomb shelter along with telephone engineer Joe (Chris Barlow), sexy Swede Grindle (Eve Brown), and their milkman Mr Patel (Jay Dave).

With the already limited performance space available in the Annex condensed by the set, and the continuous flow of action on stage, we are captivated throughout by the cast’s entire descent into madness. The attention to detail in the subtle changes to the set between the first and second act really maintain the atmosphere of the location and almost push the audience themselves to delving head first into the Joneses rapidly developing cabin fever.

The directors appear to have gone out of their way to avoid any sense of political correctness, and the show is all the more entertaining for it. Alex Bray is completely crackers as Mrs Wayneflete and the mildly racist undertones of her initial conversations with Mr Patel transcend any sense of shock and had the audience in stitches.

Alexander Curtis is wonderfully repulsive as pornographer Raymond Blake. However, I shall offer a mild disclaimer to the discerning theatre goer concerning some of the attire in this show. There are some things you just can’t unsee!

Joel Jackson and Anita Thomson have a wonderful rapport as Mr and Mrs Jones and bounce off one another brilliantly. One of the wittiest characters in the show, Thomson makes her utter disdain for her husband completely clear, peaking in one memorable moment between herself and the topless, tattooed, telephone engineer. Jackson is consistently funny throughout, but it is his final rant at his mother in law that had the audience struggling for breath.

The comic genius of this show lies in Jay Dave as Mr Patel, the milkman. Unwittingly incarcerated in the Joneses underground shelter, his inherent morbidity quickly descends into delightful hysteria. His frequently loud and desperate prayers are some of the most comical moments of the show, and his developing relationship with Mrs Wayneflete culminates in the final and most heartwarming moment of the production.

This show had the potential to fall into utter farce. However, the directional team deserve a great deal of credit for maintaining the humour without losing themselves in the realm of nonsense. The characters were well constructed, well maintained, and completely engrossing. Keeping Down with the Joneses is a crazy romp of a show that will leave you chuckling long after you have left the Annex.

Keeping Down with the Joneses is showing from 1st – 4th May in the Annex at 7.30pm. Reserve tickets to avoid disappointment.

 

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