The Realistic Joneses, Bath Ustinov Studio

ANYONE who has met a 30-something American clean- freak, displaying all the ges­ti­culating neuroses that come with the territory, will immediately recognize Pony Jones, one of four extraordinary characters in Will Eno’s award-winning play The Realistic Joneses, which is making its UK premiere on Bath Ustinov Studio’s stage.

Set in two neighboring houses, both surrounded by trees, in a town in the US north east, the play is stunning, peculiar, funny, sad, puzzling and quite brilliantly done in this Simon Evans production.

Bob Jones has a rare degenerative disease, the progress of which is volatile, uncertain and unpredictable. Jen­ni­fer, his wife of many years, struggles to support his changing moods and needs

Into the house next door move John and Pony, coincidentally also called Jones.  As Bob and Jennifer are sitting outside looking at the moon and the stars on a fine night, Pony and John appear from the shadows to introduce themselves, and they have been listening in on the conversation, in a friendly and apprehensive way.

It is immediately clear that the behaviour of the new neighbours is excitable and unconventional. Fleeting references to events that might or might not have happened hold clues to how and why they have moved to the area.

As the Joneses’ neighbourly relationship grows, more clues are scattered in the hyper-realistic conversations, some of which are laugh-out-loud funny and some just plain odd.

Jennifer, the only “normal” character, is tenderly played by Sharon Small, every expression underlining her love for and determination to support Bob. Corey Johnson’s Bob is a masterpiece of subtlety. Jack Laskey’s wired John oozes hysterical danger, and Clare Foster’s Pony captures the aspirational idiocy that is fuelled by faux-scientific TV “shows.”

Will Eno has created a rem­ar­k­able play, peopled by characters whose normality is rapidly shattered.

The Ustinov production should follow its predecessors onto the London stage, so catch it while you can in Bath, where it plays until 7th March.


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