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Double Jeopardy
The Lion and Unicorn Theatre
3rd August 2018

★★☆☆☆

Publicity image for Double Jeopardy

Photography provided by Off-Main Theatre Company

If you were hoping for a modern stage adaptation of the 1999 film, this isn't it. Sorry. Double Jeopardy is a pair of short plays where there is an element of danger to both. Written by Cameron Corcoran, he first tackles a public break-up then moves on to an international breakdown. It's a curious choice of contrasting plots, but perhaps one designed to show versatility.

Corcoran stars in his first play, Collateral, a two-hander picking through the wreckage of an unhappily-terminated fling. James (Corcoran) is having a public debrief with his ex-mistress, Angie (Gina Armfield), explaining his reasons for ending it and why it wouldn't make sense to continue. James wants to go back to his wife and put the affair behind him - Angie is unwilling to accept this. Her anger is palpable, with small, seemingly insignificant details adding to the realism of the script. The pointless fight that the former couple have about the size of a cup of coffee betrays just how hurt Angie is, and how unlikely it is that James will get her to see his point of view. She's there for a fight, one final chance to get the last word. This is no coffee shop reconciliation or peace treaty - it's clear from the start that no one is going to win. Disposable and with a sudden ending, yet watchable enough.

We make a transatlantic shift in location and tone with the second play, Fake Nukes. Rather than an intense drama, it's a bit of light relief. Before it kicks off, there are some very easy laughs earned from watching a Trump impersonator dance stupidly in front of a video projection of some of the actual US President's dumbest moments in recent memory. The framing here is simple but very nicely done. Fred Rawicz and Tatum O'Leary play Donald and Ivanka Trump with reasonable accuracy. Although neither looks much like their real life counterpart, their accents and inflections immediately let you know whom they're supposed to be channeling. The relationship between the two characters has a sinister undertone to it, with - yes - the writer taking it there.

It soon becomes frustratingly clear that this is the full extent of the political satire on offer and the laughs begin to wane with the realisation that there is a distinct lack of wit to sustain them any further. Rather than take down Theresa May (Polly Waldron) with digs about her handling of Brexit, we instead have a Russian gangster, Olig (Rory Reames), throw a stream of personal insults at the character. Waldron, to her credit, does a good job of portraying May's upset. However, this only highlights the problem with Corcoran's lazy writing – rather than a sharp, witty attack on two leaders that he obviously doesn't like, we end up with an uncomfortable moment which feels, well, misogynistic. Perhaps that is not the playwright's intention, but that is nonetheless where we've ended up. Instead of leading us to hate May the politician, the play directs us to mistreat a real woman for her looks and fashion choices. Lazy, cruel and wholly unnecessary.

It's not exactly hard to take a political swipe at, well, anyone in power at the moment. The world is a mess and we all know it. From a personal point of view, it's strangely upsetting to give a less-than-positive review to an anti-Trump tale lest anyone interpret this as an endorsement of his politics, but I'm left with little choice. Whilst the acting throughout is fine, that on its own isn't enough to make this show great again.

Double Jeopardy opened on 2nd August and runs until 7th August 2018 at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Kentish Town (Northern)



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