This weekend I saw Jubilee at the Lyric Theatre, adapted by Chris Goode from Derek Jarman’s 1978 film.
Jubilee sees Queen Elizabeth I travel to the present day to see a gang of young women living together in a squat. Its members live out a hedonistic and carefree existence until two of their number are shot by police, whereupon the survivors kill the police in revenge before running away from their home to escape arrest.
The description I have given of the play’s narrative does no justice at all to its wildness – there’s lots of swearing; several scenes involving full frontal nudity (Interestingly of men rather than women); the fourth wall is broken throughout, and there is no real attempt to maintain the play’s narrative integrity. Jubilee is about themes rather than story or characters.
It’s central theme is – I think (I’m not going to pretend that I understood all that the play was about) – defiance. The gang members live how they want to live; do what they want to do; be how they want to be. Sexuality is also at the heart of the play: Jubilee is a celebration of queerness.
I found Jubilee to be a rather mad, reckless but enjoyable play. I thought Rose Wardlaw as the nymphomaniac Crabs and Lucy Ellinson as Ariel/Viv particularly good in their roles. The people I saw the play with recognised some good performances, including Travis Alabanza as the transvestite (or transgender – I’m not sure which) Amyl Nitrate, but criticised Goode’s adaptation for being unfaithful to Derek Jarman’s screenplay.
I haven’t seen the film version but can sympathise with my friends. If one is going to adapt a play (or book, etc) one may change as many scenes as one likes but really ought to remain faithful to the original writer’s vision. Otherwise, one produces not an adaptation but corruption.
If I have one criticism of the play it is that it fancied itself as something rather edgy. But it wasn’t. Swearing and nudity has been done before; being queer is now mainstream; ‘girl gangs’ have been seen before as have drag acts.
If Jubilee had wanted to be edgy, it would have interrogated the current dogma that a man can call himself a woman and on account of his word alone be regarded as such.
If Jubilee had wanted to be edgy, the gang members would have stood up for migrants and refugees, for people with criminal convictions being harassed for crimes they have already paid for, or for people they regard as their enemies.
If Jubilee had wanted to be edgy, the gang members would have stopped for one minute, turned off the music, been silent and asked themselves why – why am I doing this? and how – what can I do to make good that which is bad?
I don’t recall any self-questioning or selflessness in the play. It seemed to be all about me. now. why? because. I enjoyed the play but its shallowness made it disappointing in the end. 7/10.