For a strictly limited two-week run, this new play has been staying at the heart of London’s Soho to offer a new exploration on queer identities. Guillermo Názara shares his thoughts about this production, previously performed at the Vaul Festival in 2019, where it was granted the Show of the Week Award.
Some people think they’re staying true to themselves by abiding by the non-conforming rules. Some others may be closer to the rest, but not even one day have they stopped being authentic. We’re complex creatures, but the answer to our identities is rather simple: not to be defined by anyone else than yourself – and that includes not caring if you don’t fit (or even if you do!).
Those are Juniper and Jules, two persons from completely different worlds – yet attracted by their passionate fascination for each other: the first has never doubted she’s a lesbian and goes by many of the clichés she’s expected to – yet is convinced she’s radically individualistic. On the the other hand, Jules had never realized she liked women too until she met Juniper, but that doesn’t mean she’s bound to change her whole persona due to a new trait she’s just discovered.
The play poses an interesting psychological conflict, as two very different temperaments hold hands together while arm-wrestling at the same time. Starting on the early stages of their relation (what may have only been an occasional hook-up), the piece follows their whole evolution, where the excitement and flawless joy of the beginning commences to crack and threatens for their bond itself to fall apart.
Seems relatable, and there are several scenes that (regardless of your sexual preferences) you will surely identify with, but sadly the text fails to grasp your emotions in the same way, as the very interesting premise gets diluted into a much predictable plot. Both characters, though intriguing during the opening, lose part of their appeal (at least when it comes to their path) by the end of the performance, as the pace slows down considerably and some moments and storylines get a bit too repetitive.
There are some strong features though, including in the text itself (as the first dialogues have a higher level of realism and its comedy does provoke a good bunch of laughs), but those come especially from its two sole actresses Gabriella Schmidt (Jules) and Stella Taylor (Juniper). Exuding enough stage presence, their chemistry and naturality is by far the biggest pro of the production – their interactions suggesting a deeper undertanding of each other.
On its side, the direction (credit to Bethany Pitts) also works effectively, making a dynamic use of the space and providing us with some further insight of the characters’ journey – mainly through visual messages achieved by lighting and some interesting positioning. This makes of Juniper and Jules not an exceptional piece to watch, but a diverting effort put together by some talented cast and creative team, which is always worth scouting.
Juniper and Jules concluded its two-week run at London’s Soho Theatre on May 14th.