A Generous Lover @ Summerhall

La John Joseph's A Generous Lover artfully draws on Classical myth to examine big ideas such as identity and relationships

Review by Alice Lannon | 31 Aug 2018

An ambitious and richly woven piece, La John Joseph's A Generous Lover artfully draws on Classical myth to examine big ideas such as identity, relationships, and the thin line between sanity and insanity.

Our narrator JJ is as poised and elegant as a 1920s starlet, with dramatic makeup and pristine red hair. They are also an excellent storyteller, really drawing the audience in with the tale of their lover Orpheus, who becomes trapped in the ‘Underworld’ – an NHS mental health institution. The 'Generous Lover' of the title, we are told, is the mania of bi-polar disorder, which gets you so high only to make you come crashing down. And JJ explains that it’s not so easy to love someone so unstable. Through their performance we hear less well represented side of the story: that of the lover helplessly looking in on mental illness and treatment procedures from the outside.

Though they capture a range of voices from both the ‘real’ world and the ‘underworld’, JJ’s own voice seems rather fragile and trembling. We sense they feel they are on a boundary, where they feel misunderstood – for example, we hear that their gender presentation makes the staff at the hospital uneasy and that once when visiting they are mistaken for a patient themselves. This exploration of blurred binaries is probably the most thought provoking aspect of the performance.

JJ handles such a heavy subject matter sensitively and soulfully – yet balances the weight wonderfully with bitingly funny one liners, and by frequently bursting into song. All in all, a rather glamorous, entertaining and endearing performance.

A Generous Lover, Summerhall, run ended

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