On Friday, we were at the opening night for Ramona Tells Jim at the Bush Theatre, a new play written by Sophie Wu and directed by Mel Hillyard.
The play is set in 1998, when Ramona meets Jim on a school trip to the Scottish Highlands; they’re two teenagers who don’t fit in with their peers and bond over their status as outsiders and their love of Enya. After falling for each other, Ramona tells Jim a lie which has a profound effect on their lives.
Ramona Tells Jim is a darkly comic play about young love, one mistake, and the consequences that follow. Here’s why we think you should see it:
The sharp writing
Writer Sophie Wu is the first graduate of the Bush’s Emerging Writers’ Group – launched in 2015 – to have a full commission produced at the Bush Theatre, and we think she’s definitely one to watch!
Her writing is clever, witty, and very funny. The dialogue is sharp and all of the characters have great, quotable one-liners.
The play is filled with humour but there are also darker, serious moments, particularly in the second half of the show. The first piece of news which Ramona tells Jim has dire consequences, and this is followed later by a confession which makes it all the more painful.
The show shifts between Ramona and Jim’s teen years where they first meet in 1998, to fifteen years on, where we see how Jim’s life has turned out. This structure works well, maintaining momentum by moving between the past and present, and all of this in just 80 minutes, no interval!
Ruby Bentall (Ramona) and Joe Bannister (Jim) have perfected the characterisation of these two socially awkward nerdy teenagers. There is something so satisfying as an audience member to watch these characters interact – you will most definitely cringe, but in the best, most enjoyable way. The characters are relatable, whether they remind you of your former teenage self or someone you know. In addition to these comedic moments, the actors convey the fragility of the characters as well as perhaps an inherent sadness.
When we skip on fifteen years, Amy Lennox plays Jim’s girlfriend, Pocahontas (yes, that’s really her name). Pocahontas is nineteen, a bit of a chav (or a ‘ned’ as is used in Scotland) and longs for a ‘normal’ life: a nice house, a family, and an office job as a mortgage advisor, where she can buy a Boots meal deal for lunch. Amy plays the character with a vulnerability that shines throughout the show, with the possibility that Pocahontas may crack at any given moment.
The intimate setting
So many London shows are on such a grand scale, and although we love this too, it always feels special to witness a show on a more intimate level.
There are only three cast members, and the show is truly brought to life in the Bush Theatre’s brand new studio space. The space is very intimate – I even grazed legs with one of the actors as they entered the stage – but the show works perfectly in this small venue. The intimate setting adds to the atmosphere, whether that means you feel painfully uncomfortable watching two teenagers have an awkward first kiss, feeling like a fly on the wall in Jim’s bedroom, or as a tourist as part of Jim’s independent tour group (where we’re constantly reminded to review him on TripAdvisor).
Don’t be put off if you don’t like being too up close and personal – just make sure to sit in the second row.
Ramona Tells Jim plays at the Bush Theatre until Saturday 21 October. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.