REVIEW: Brilliant Jerks, Southwark Playhouse

While consistently interesting , it feels as though Joseph Charlton’s play has just a few too many ideas crammed into it.

(c)Nick Rutter

As a study of the rise of companies and how everybody involved can get in a sense dominated by and torn by it success, Joseph Charlton’s Brilliant Jerks is intriguing and fascinating to watch as it tells the story of one such company from three very different perspectives.

The play focuses on the rise of a new cab firm in which you can hail at the tap of a button and we meet three central characters at the heart of this new company. We meet Mia, a driver for the company who drives at nights and has to deal with a whole variety of passengers along †he way, Sean who is a programmer for the company and Tyler who moves up the ranks. But as each of their experiences at the company unfolds, it is revealed that the more involved with the company they become – the more that they have to lose.

As a play, Brilliant Jerks is wonderfully perceptive in the way in which it deals with each of the issues at the centre of it all – but there is very little room for character development or much interaction between Mia, Sean and Tyler’s characters with other personalities that they come across as part of their job. The way in which the play has been constructed, feels more like a series of monologues pieced together (cleverly – but doesn’t give the audience much time to get to know the characters), an interesting way of presenting the story and gives the piece an almost corporate feel in a good way. Sometimes the comedy doesn’t quite land as it should, particularly when it is a piece that highlights issues that lie at the heart of the story: gender inequality, homophobia and the lack of job security in terms of being paid a minimum wage.

Directed by KatieAnn McDonough, there is a nice pace the production and every aspect of the plot is sharply executed, allowing for the cast to really embrace the story that is unfolding. It is really well grounded and captures the reality of the situation with a brilliant truthfulness that the audience can relate to – particularly during the more emotionally raw moments such as Mia discussing her addiction with heartbreaking vulnerability or Sean realising that his undetectable HIV has been made public. The moments in which we are shown some depth to the characters make for the strongest aspects of Brilliant Jerks.

It does have to be said that each character’s individual strand of the story could make for a play of its own and I think if the play was developed further into a longer piece it would make it even more engaging. But thanks to the cast formed of Sean Delaney, Shubham Saraf and Kiran Sonia Sawar, perform as each of the central characters (as well as the many others dotted throughout) with great precision and thoughtfulness, you can’t fail to be gripped by what is happening – even if you can see how the situation is going to reach its head.

Overall, there is much to be appreciated about Brilliant Jerks, with the intimacy of the southwark Playhouse’s The Little Space ensuring that the story is wrapped around the audience effectively. However, the play does leave you feeling as though there is still more to be said and could be developed further by giving it more time to expand on its ideas.

By Emma Clarendon

Brilliant Jerks continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 25th March.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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