Jules and Jim ★★★ Jermyn Street Theatre | Apr 20 - May 27, 2023

On its publication in 1953 and with François Truffaut's subsequent film of 1962, Jules and Jim caused shock waves. Its presentation of the complex relationship between the three principals and their emotional and sexual web seemed extraordinary. However, with present mores the shock is no longer there and the characters now seem to be almost gender stereotypes. The original story is actually a meditation on three forms of love identified by the Greeks. The friendship of Jules (Samuel Collings) and Jim (Alex Mugnaioni) represents philia or brotherly love, while the relationship of both the men with Kath (Patricia Allison) is a tribute to the power of eros. And, as Jules delves deeper into his scholarship and an interest in Buddhism, he increasingly becomes a representative of agape. The challenge here is to bring the concepts to life and to make the representations of the three aspects compelling. Unfortunately, the decision to have most of the story recited in a declamatory style distances the audience from the characters, failing to engage the audience emotionally in the relationship tangle. Much of the discussion amongst the three principals is abstract enough, but the frequent stepping out of character to comment on the action breaks any thread of involvement. While the cast work hard to convey the deep connections between the characters they never quite ring true. The intensity of the friendship of Jules and Jim is the most emotionally real, while the erotic fascination with Kath seems a bit hollow. She may have an alluring smile, but her behaviour comes across as simply manipulative and attention seeking. The most difficult path to portray is Jules' transformation. Too often this can seem like a withdrawal from life, rather than an embracing of it. Achieving the larger than life proportions of a Greek tragedy is what is required here, and while this production has potential it doesn't fully realise its ambitions.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Steve Gregson.

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