Review: Dancing at Lughnasa, National Theatre
Review: The Motive and The Cue, National Theatre - a joy to watch

Review: Jules and Jim, Jermyn Street Theatre - Alternative lives and love but the effect feels muted

Alex Mugnaioni  Samuel Collings and Patricia Allison in Jules and Jim_Jermyn Street Theatre_photography by Steve Gregson
Alex Mugnaioni, Samuel Collings and Patricia Allison in Jules and Jim, Jermyn Street Theatre. Photo by Steve Gregson

Jules and Jim is an exploration of love and friendship told through the lens of three people living an unconventional lifestyle. Jules (Samuel Collings) is a German poet who meets Frenchman Jim (Alex Mugnaioni) in Paris.

They share a love of art and travel together until Kath (Patricia Allison) arrives with an enigmatic smile that mirrors the one they saw on a statue of a Goddess in Greece. Naturally, they both fall in love with her.

Jim has a history of falling for Jules' girlfriends, but when Jules says Kath is out of bounds for him, you can easily guess what is going to happen.

Over 90 minutes, we follow the trio across the decades that straddle the first world war. They move about, live in Paris, Berlin and rural Germany, visit each other, marry, take lovers, they have children and miscarriages.

Solid friendships

But all the time, they are open with each other about their relationships and feelings. There are flares of jealousy, but nothing seems to rock the foundations of their friendship and love. 

It would definitely have been viewed as a scandalous alternative lifestyle at the time it is set, but there is no social commentary. And with none of the lovers present, no sense of betrayal or wrong.

As a result, love, what it means and what the rules are (and if they have been broken) is centre stage. 

Throughout, the actors turn to the audience to give their take on particular events or conversations and their impressions of each other.

When compared to Jules and Jim, Kath is the more interesting character. She is free and spirited, chases excitement and fun, and always speaks her mind and changes it. And yet she doesn't understand why the men find her simultaneously perplexing and alluring.

Full and free life

Given the constraints placed on women by society at the time, it is captivating to see her living a full and free life next to the men, enjoying lovers, travelling and leaving her children with their father when the fancy takes her off somewhere.

But just as there is an inevitability about how they pair off, there is also an inevitability about the ending.

Without any additional characters, the consequences of their actions are only ever reported, making much of it feel emotionally inconsequential. And despite the alternative nature of their relationship, the constant switching of partners and affairs does start to feel a little humdrum. The matter-of-factness about everything seems to dull the passion.

Jules and Jim is based on a novel by Henri-Pierre Roché and has also been made into a film, neither of which I've seen; as a play, it is interesting but not as exciting as the lives Jules, Jim and Kath seem to live.

I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Jules and Jim, Jermyn Street Theatre

Written by Timberlake Wertenbaker from a novel by Henri-Pierre Roché

Directed by Stella Powell-Jones

Cast: Samuel Collings, Alex Mugnaioni and Patrician Allison

Running time 90 minutes without an interval

Booking until 27 May; for more information and to book tickets, visit the Jermyn  Street Theatre website

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