Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2002
Ever wondered what happens behind your back? Ever missed the first part of a conversation? Noises Off meets Abigail's Party in this topsy-turvy comedy with a giant twist.
There is a brilliantly original idea at the heart of Spinning Jenny, although sometimes the actual execution of the play struggles to do it justice.
Act one plods along reasonably enough, as we meet two suburban couples and their mutual friend Jenny. Nothing much seems to happen, and when it does, it's disconcertingly disjointed - characters wander on and off stage with no apparent motivation, blurt out revelations apropos of nothing and behave more than a little bizarrely.
Yet through all this, tales of pregnancy, infidelity and sexual frustration gradually emerge.
But you can see the light, ironically enough, in the darkness between the acts, as it becomes possible to twig the 'high concept' around which the whole proceedings revolve - and the pun is very much intended.
For the inspired idea is that act two shows the same events as the first, only with the whole set rotated 180 degrees. Suddenly you can see what the characters got up to when they disappeared, the gaps in the narrative are filled and everything falls cleverly into place.
In retrospect, that first half suddenly makes a whole lot more sense, leaving you pretty damned impressed at the cleverness of it all.
Individually, the two halves don't work particularly well, but together they produce a smart and cohesive whole - even if sometimes things work out a little too conveniently, especially a contrived coincidence about abbreviations, and the way shattered emotions are repaired unfeasibly quickly in time for a neat conclusion.
The play is also a little unsure of what it is. Although essentially a farce played straight, complete with 'whoops, where are my trousers' gags, writer Paul Kerensa betrays his stand-up roots. He can't resist the temptation to include sharp quips, and even a couple of lightweight observational routines, regardless of whether or not those lines are in character.
The idea's definitely got potential, though, even if the script could do with another draft to fully realise it.
Brian Campbell - 17/08/2002
A fair review, although I'd have to say that I was just after some good laughs, which Spinning Jenny delivered in abundance. Yes, it's contrived, but provided it's funny, does anyone really care? I laughed, groaned, and came away thoroughly entertained.