REVIEW: Ramona Tells Jim, Bush Studio Theatre ✭✭✭

Ramona Tells Jim at Bush Studio Theatre

Ramona Tells Jim

Ramona Tells Jim
Bush Theatre Studio
Three stars

For a play so full of big laughs, Sophie Wu’s new play Ramona Tells Jim is desperately sad at heart. It jumps between a brief but intense relationship between two misfit teenagers in a seaside town on the west coast of Scotland and the impact it continues to have on their lives 15 years later.

With Wu established as a comedy actor, it is no surprise that it is full of humour, sometimes bordering on delightful silliness. It is broadly funny in its grown-up actors’ portrayals of 15-year-old English schoolgirl Ramona, awkward but trying to be oh so cool, and the older 17-year-old Jim, a local lad obsessed with the crustaceans he finds on the beach. Their poignant romance initially provides hope that these two lonely teenagers could find happiness through their equally quirky outlooks on life and a shared love of Enya.

But this is no coming-of-age rom-com. It is clear from the start that, 15 years later, the pair are not together and that something happened to keep them apart. As adults, Ramona is even more lonely and troubled while Jim is just as awkward and ineffectual, pressured into a relationship with a 19-year-old woman who has been damaged by life in her own way.

The laughs owe much to the three actors who, under director Mel Hillyard, make the most of the comedy of Wu’s writing. Ruby Bentall is especially engaging as Ramona, both as a gawky teenager and as an emotionally despairing adult. Joe Bannister is equally touching as the socially awkward but pure-hearted Jim while Amy Lennox is caustically amusing and just a little bit scary as his tough but needy girlfriend, Pocahontas. The production makes good use of a maritime-inspired set by Lucy Sierra, with atmospheric lighting by Rajiv Pattani and sound design by Dominic Kennedy.

At times, the broad humour jars uneasily with the intense sadness of the story and the three adults’ bleak, fractured lives. However, with strong characters and a well-crafted structure, Ramona Tells Jim is an impressive, entertaining debut that will make you laugh despite the darkness underneath.

Running to October 21, 2017

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