Blue Jay, written and directed by Bri Mansy, is an exploration of mental health, gender and loneliness. A multimedia show incorporating song and dance, this is a highly emotional look at where we all fit into a world where no one is free from pain.
The play opens on Liverpool’s waterfront. Love locks decorate the stage and the River Mersey along with further love locks are projected onto the back of the stage. The cry of seagulls brings a sense of realism to the scene where a busker (Daisy Gill) begins to play Eleanor Rigby, a classic song about loneliness.
She is soon joined by Sarah (Rebecca Bryan), a homeless heroin addict and Grace (Ceri Bellis), who gazes at the love locks while reflecting on memories of the waterfront with her husband and daughter.
Stevie (Connor Kelly), an angry and unhappy young person, walks onto the waterfront and attaches a lock while apologising to their mother. Throwing all of their money at Sarah who is asking for change, they storm off the stage.
We next see Stevie near the train tracks where Grace is remembering her daughter who has passed away. When Stevie attempts to jump in front of a train, Grace violently pulls them from the fence and tries to persuade them to talk about their issues. Stevie is initially furious with Grace for preventing them from killing themselves, but eventually agrees to talk. Stevie and Grace forge a friendship which explores the pain they are both keeping inside.
Grace is a remarkably empathetic character and Bellis’ portrayal is extremely stoic and virtuous. This core characterisation emphasises the flashes of strong emotion she eventually shows.
Stevie’s character contrasts with Grace as their emotions are on the surface and forceful in their expression. Kelly deserves praise for maintaining a constant level of bubbling emotional turmoil.
The pace of the play is a little slow at times and the drama could be better maintained by seeing what the characters have been through being performed, rather than them telling each other stories. While this is reflective of real life, and the bond between the two lead actors was strong, the audience would be able to connect better with the characters and their issues by seeing what they had been through.
The sound effects and projections are used to create a sense of realism. The love locks and train barriers cleverly hint at the emotional barriers Stevie and Grace have created in their lives. Birdsong is nicely used to illustrate life and vitality in the world and the music, which includes some original songs, adds depth to the themes of the play.
Blue Jay is an effective and enjoyable look at mental health issues in the 21st century and a good reminder that everyone you meet in life may have some pain which they are hiding and if you talk to them about it you might just get to meet their true self.
Blue Jay is being performed again at the Hope Street Theatre on 31st May 2019. Tickets are available here https://tinyurl.com/yypcmzbg
Reviewer: Donna M Day
Reviewed: 30th May 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★