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Review: Jude, at Hampstead Theatre

09 May, 2019 — By ERIN COBBY

Paul Brennen and Isabella Nefar in Jude. Photo: Marc Brenner

THE story of a gifted Syrian refugee who comes to England to fulfil her father’s dreams of her attending Oxford University, Jude, a reworking of Thomas Hardy’s final novel, challenges perceptions of prejudice and explores questions about genius through bitter-sweet dialogue and magical realist elements.

The non-linear structure of the piece gradually reveals the mystery behind Jude’s actions. While this effectively builds suspense, gradually creating a more complete and extreme view of Jude (Isabella Nefar), the disjointed storytelling results in parts of the play becoming lost among seemingly bizarre details.

Ashley Martin-Davis’s staging is beautifully executed. Set in the round, the audience face an ominous set of black double doors and a floor littered with hundreds of books. A sense of space is created effectively and simplistically, with panels in the floor lifting up to reveal mud or sand. A particularly striking image is manufactured when Jude faces the audience, dripping in pig’s blood that mingles with the white snow at her feet.

All the performances are admirable, with Nefar’s contrastingly childlike physicality and omnipotent air creating an impactful depiction of the eponymous character. The physical appearance of Euripides (Paul Brennen), dressed in classical robes and mask, seems to jar, although allows for insightful moments of personal reflection.

An interesting concept, brought together with evident stylistic skill by the theatre’s artistic director Edward Hall, who is leaving after nine years.

Until June 1
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