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Review: Jab (Finborough Theatre)

Review by Daz Gale




2020 – in some respects, it feels like it was a lifetime ago. In others, it feels like it was only yesterday. Did it really happen or was it all a fever dream? It was inevitable that plays based on what happened during that trying and terrifying year would be made, and that is exactly what we are facing with the world premiere of Jab at one of London’s most reliable theatres for new and rarely revisited works, Finborough.


Inspired by true events, Jab sees married couple Anne and Don dealing with something they had never prepared for – each other. Like so many couples found themselves doing during the 2020 lockdowns when you are stuck in a room with the person you are in a long-term relationship with, they suddenly become the most irritating, unlikeable person in the world. Jab blitzes through the year in their marital home as they deal with their intense feelings for each other, the ever-changing world outside, and their differences of opinion when it comes to the vaccine – or “jab” as it is referred to throughout.


If some of that description rings true for any of you, James McDermott has painstakingly crafted a snapshot into our recent history in a play that feels scarily relatable in some respects. Describing itself as a black comedy, the early days of the pandemic are treated with relatively carefree abandon as the couple drink and dance, only to punctuate each scene with a rolling death toll at that point in time. Gradually, the laughs decrease and eventually stop altogether as the topics get all the more somber, and heavy themes such as power, domestic violence, choice, and conspiracy theories come into play.

McDermott’s writing is effortlessly understated and beautifully realised in a relatively small show given its focus on one couple but whose themes are as grand as they come. The fact the pandemic is still so fresh in our minds and we are still facing the repercussions of it sometimes creates an uncomfortable watch but that makes it all the more powerful. The way he weaves in key events into the narrative as we see glimpses of the outside world but never loses focus on the couple in the story is what makes Jab so wonderfully effective.


Scott Le Crass directs the piece with a tender care and attention to detail as he finds ways to realise McDermott’s writing, keeping the gentle tone while ensuring it packs the powerful punch it requires. With a relatively bare set and only chairs, wine, crisps, and the Daily Mail shudder as props, his choices are continually inspired, never faltering and certainly never making the piece dull. The way each scene cuts into another with a simple move ensures we are never lost and even when we get a sense of what is about to happen, it still feels raw and real.

In this intimate two-hander, everything is laid bare with the two actors getting as close to the surrounding audience as they can. This means every facial expression and ounce of emotion is always visible with nothing to hide. The two performers here more than rise to the occasion with outstanding performances. Liam Tobin is big and brash as the dominating Don whose complex history and relationship with his wife give him plenty of material to work with. Tobin wows at every turn in a performance that changes throughout, showing his versatility as an actor, and transforming completely by the time the play reaches its climax.


Kacey Ainsworth gives a masterclass performance as Anne, flawlessly exploring the conflicting feelings she feels for her husband. Whether she is being dry and dismissive or holding her own as she stands up for herself and her beliefs, Ainsworth is stunning throughout, particularly in the show’s final scenes. Without giving anything away, Kacey is left to her own devices and left to explore a world of emotions, which she does with ease. Her range as an actress is on full display here, jabbing us at every turn with her unrivaled skill.

Some people may not be ready to watch a recreation of what so many of us suffered and lost in 2020, but Jab is an important play that relives those dark days and finds something powerful to explore and resonate with us all. If plays about the pandemic are somewhat inevitable, may they all be as sensitive and sensational as Jab. Brilliantly written and wonderfully acted, Jab is a thought-provoking and powerful piece of theatre that, like the first lockdown, I’m sure will be back for another stint soon.


Jab plays at Finborough Theatre until 16th March. Tickets from


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