There is a play extant in the world that contains some of the most exquisite wordplay & soul-penetrating pathos… its name is Scaramouche Jones by Justin Butcher. The play opens at 10:30 PM, the last Millennium eve, with Jones returning to his dressing room after a show at the circus. Turning to the audience, as he rapidly approaches his centenary & his death, he goes on to relate the story of Jones’ first fifty years of life – beginning with his bastard birth to a prostitute. The thing is, after an hour or so you really do hope he’d hurry up & die – there is a certain & inevitable tedium that comes with an old man waffling through his past in normal society, so translating it into entertainment is not, I dare say, a perfect way to conduct a piece of theatre.
Pete Postlethwaite as Scaramouche Jones in 2009
There are clever touches, some beautiful Victorian English which slide-shows verbally over a lovely tour through Africa & continental Europe, including some harrowing descriptions of digging mass-graves during the Nazi genocide. Thom Tuck is also an excellent Jones, & if one enjoys experiencing the very quintessence of acting, then his rendition is well worth experiencing. But one is left ultimately with the feeling that most fringe shows are between 45 & 60 minutes for a reason, & if production companies can reduce Shakespeare to within those confines, then surely they can do the same with other plays. Disembarking from my raft of criticism, however, Scaramouche Jones may tickle certain sensibilities – but it will not be to every one’s taste. THREE STARS
Reviewer : Damo Bullen