“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”
― Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper
It’s hard to put into words what Jake is truly about – a surreal look at celebrity fandom, an examination of love in the movies versus reality, or an honest examination of loneliness and the human condition. Greater than the sum of its parts, Verity Williams’ show is very funny, at time bonkers (in a good way), but also not afraid to get ‘serious’ and talk about stuff that’s ‘meaningful’.
Within the world of the play, Williams co-runs a weekly meeting with ‘Jake’, teaching us (the audience) how to move on from a place of loneliness to be fully-functioning human beings. The opening ‘sequence featuring Williams wearing the ‘bunny’ mask from Donnie Darko and dancing with ‘Jake’ (represented by a balloon, mask, clothes and a chair) shows we can be fixated with the ‘image’/our projection of someone, rather than a messy, tangible reality. Other similar scenes occur in the show – always initiated by the same choice of music, with Williams realising at one point her ‘compulsion’ and wishing to ‘break the cycle’.
A section involving the re-enactment of romantic scenes in movies is hilarious. These include the pottery scene from Ghost, the freezing of Han Solo in carbonite (from The Empire Strikes Back) using a vaper, and an unsaid reminder from Titanic that Jack may have fit on the door if Rose was smaller.
The laughs continue when Williams collects from the audience suggestions for what to ask on first dates. Trying them out with a member of the audience, some are ‘silly’ or fun as you might expect, while some of the answers are very candidly given.
There is, however, a marked difference in tone in the latter half of the show, when ‘Williams’ is crestfallen at the departure of ‘Jake’, leading her to change the focus of the session on learning to live without people and taking a more prosaic attitude to life.
The closing of the show – with its honesty and the way loneliness can be felt even amongst other people – is refreshing, opening up a dialogue about the unsaid malaise of the 21st century. Audrey Hepburn once said: “When you have nobody you can make a cup of tea for, when nobody needs you, that’s when I think life is over.” Williams’ character throughout offers the audience to share a cup of tea with her, to make a connection. Most people aren’t truly ‘invisible’, but often they are ignored…
© Michael Davis 2018
Jake ran at Drayton Arms Theatre on 14th and 15th October.