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Jess and Joe Forever review at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough – ‘funny and poignant’

Misha Butler and Kate Hargreaves in Jess and Joe Forever at Stephen Joseph Theatre. Photo: Tony Bartholomew
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Jess (Kate Hargreaves) and Joe (Misha Butler) want to tell their story. It’s a story about not fitting in, about transformation, about how two kids from opposite ends of the social spectrum can find each other in the short-lived days of summer holidays and how sometimes friendship is more solid than family, even if it is for just two weeks a year.

Jess has an au pair and boards at a posh school; she’s vegetarian but still eats scotch eggs, because they’re mostly egg. Joe is a farmer’s lad from Norfolk; he knows the land and likes the cows and worries about the male calves being sent away to slaughter. Neither of them quite belong where they are.

Zoe Cooper’s Jess and Joe Forever – first seen at the Orange Tree Theatre in 2016 –is a coming-of-age tale in which the characters are always in charge, directing the lighting and soundscapes as if preparing for a school production of their lives.

Hargreaves’ precocious and endearingly enthusiastic Jess is the perfect counterpoint to Butler’s vulnerable Joe, while Cooper’s skill with dialogue perfectly captures the awkwardness of tween life.

Lotte Wakeham’s production is funny, moving and fizzes with life, enhanced by Frankie Bradshaw’s elegant stage design.

What appears on the surface to be a gentle, heart-warming story is actually a many layered production with serious topics at its heart, yet the production is never consumed by the need to pander to the audience.

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Tender and engaging revival of Zoe Cooper's poignant, funny coming-of-age tale