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Last term, director Jonny Brace made his debut with the T24 show Dead to the World which detailed the story of a girl whose boyfriend comes back as a zombie. The original story’s scope received immense praise for its ability to be witty but also heart wrenching, so the bar was already set high. It left fans of Jonny’s work wondering, would his latest show Love and Other Tax Avoidance Schemes be as emotive?
Throughout my time at University, I’ve seen a lot of shows. Some enjoyable, others cringy and some just plain bizarre. But, they’re often easy to label into a certain genre category. That’s what was so beautiful about Love, Tax. It has no genre conformity. One minute, you’re laughing, the next, you’re near to tears. Then, you’re whopping for the bad-ass girl standing up for herself. This show took fellow audience members and myself on an emotional rollercoaster.
The story appears straightforward (well, a lot more straightforward than a zombie boyfriend). It is the journey of Jeremy, an asexual teenage boy and his best friend Nina, a sassy girl who identifies as LGBTQ+. They make a pact that if, by the age of thirty they are still single, they will get married. Why, you ask? To save on tax of course!
But this is a Jonny Brace show, which means nothing is as simple as it seems on paper. Along the way, you meet an array of characters throughout the ‘couple’s’ life, from their mismatched friends matchmaking Sarah and her tag-along boyfriend David, as well as Jeremy’s stereotypical school lads, many love interests, an overbearing yet caring mother and a ‘living in the stone age’ father who can’t accept his daughters life choices.
The script was filled with great lines, witty dialogue left, right and centre as well as powerful lines that really pack a punch and leave you thinking about them for days after. The meaning of these lines was not lost in translation via the acting, the delivery of particular lines was seamless. The lead Jeremy would say anything in an awkward yet sweet way, and leave the audience smiling along with his awkwardness. The two side characters Sarah and David would have a fake argument and he would run off stage with his hands flapped behind him, leaving the audience in fits at his dramatic stance.
But the humorous moments did not spoil the rawer scenes. The audience that had continuously laughed and cheered were put to silence when the leading couple paw over a song they used to share, and they sing it sorrowfully to their children. All I had to do was look around and see the tearstained faces of the audience members who clearly, were feeling the exact same way I was. The contrast between the eruption into cheers at Nina’s telling the sleazy Larry, who asks her to marry him in the most unromantic manner, to “put that party ring down and get the fuck out of my house”, and this moment, made it all the more bitter-sweet.
“This show meant so much to me as a writer.” Jonny tells InQuire when asked about the overall experience. “I am very passionate about LGBT+ storytelling but especially asexual storytelling as an asexual man myself. Communities that rarely even get side characters let alone main characters.”
One thing I will say is often cringy in student drama shows is transitions. But even these were done skilfully, with characters talking as they bring on props/furniture so that you’re focused on their acting and not distracted by the fact that they’re lugging on a chest of draws.
The one thing I would say is that Jonny has a gift for making bums go numb on seats because of the lengths of his plays. Three hours after and I don’t think I’d quite lost all feeling in my backside, but nearly enough. However, in this case I’d blame that on the uncomfortable seats of the venue, because, the play was never boring for a second.
“The experience of directing ‘Love and Other’ was joyous.” He details. “From the first read-through, the cast took the script and characters so much to heart and made so much more of it than I ever imagined. Every rehearsal was filled with laughter and joy and friendship and it was a joy to be a part of it.”
Those who have missed out on ‘Love, Tax,’ do not fear, there’s one final instalment to come from Jonny Brace. Brace has written another show coming up this term entitled Heartbeat to a Town, which will be directed by Alec Taylor.