Humour is fascinating, there are many shades and J.A.T.O is a play that explores the grey. Written by Vedrana Klepica it is set in Zagreb. A city which like the characters has a broken past, when a story is told about pigeons setting upon sparrows it is told with the bitter amusement of a people who know that massacres did and do happen and we would do well to remember it on some level. We as an audience are here to be reminded of this, we would do well to understand this humour, because this is what it is to be human.
We are presented with two narratives set for collision. A band of off cuts, endless travellers without music or cause and the security guards set to guard the arrival of an important dignitary.All the characters in this play have little if any control over what is to come. J.A.T.O, Bjorn and Helenna have a set to play but they are really a part of a more sinister game; Grey Eagle and Fatso are pawns in a system beyond thier control and Julia? Well Julia would like to think that with her wine she is in control of the game but she if anything demonstrates how out of our control our lives are. Incidently portraying these characters would be a challenge for any group of actos but playing them so comprehensively with accents is testement to the abilities of this ensemble. Tanya Dickson directed her vision of these characters very well and brought depth beyond the words in stylised movement.
Once again the MKA pop-up theatre in Prahan pays host to a fine piece of new writing in an completely transformed space. This time we are treated to a shifting floor that complements a text that dares you to pin it down. Designed by resident set designer David Samuel it was certainly a transformative canvas and worked well. It was a space of great potential and when it was integrated into the action there was a great additional dynamic to the work. Strong production values have typified Samuel's residency and he definately has a bright future in the industry. Complementing the sand was a stark lighting design by Megan Fitzgerald and deceptively grey costume design by Chloe Greaves.
Speaking of grey, back to the humour (!)
There is a harsh rasping texture to the humour of this play. J.A.T.Oscreams at times with violence and at others is deadened with the inevitable and yet through these incarnations it reamains acutely observed and tailoured to the situation. Whilst difficult to describe it as funny it is a play about humour as a refuge for the desperation of humanity and ultimately serves reminds us that it is most often the broken people that end up breaking through.