john and jenJOHN & JEN
Sidetrack Theatre
Sydney Fringe Festival

I never quite know what a show at Sidetrack is going to serve up, I’ve been to various performances there and sometimes I enjoy them and sometimes I find myself containing and squashing internal yawns.
Luckily for me, John and Jen was one of those shows you just engage with and enjoy from beginning to end. The story takes us on a ride of emotions as we follow the lives of a brother and sister. The story is deeply focused on the sister, Jen and the bond she has with her younger brother, John. John goes off to fight, presumably in Vietnam, he get’s killed and Jen never quite recovers. She carries this desperate loss right through to when she has her own son and calls him John. It’s a beautiful piece about loss, relationships and regrets but it’s not mellow and dark, it has a delightful lightness and fullness to it which is quite heart warming and optimistic.
Naomi Livingston plays Jen and she is absolutely suited to the part, she is able to generate emotions ranging from loss and sadness to funny and jolly. Edward Grey fitted the part of John (both Johns) like a glove, not only could he play the younger brother who starts out at 7 years old believably but he could also embody the part of a brother who grows up and goes to war and then as a son to Jen. He is able to diversify himself when he is actually playing to the same character Jen who stays the same in a linear sense throughout the story. The voices of Linvingston and Grey just gel beautifully.
The band is visible onstage and they are excellent, I really thought they should’ve bowed at the end, as the show wouldn’t be possible without them. The set is minimal and somewhat strange and resembles different environments throughout the show. The actors pivot the wooden structure around in a circle and stand on it to create different levels. It’s very well utilised and the director has used it well, I just wasn’t a real fan of it.
Performances of this quality should get more airplay, however they will be at Sidetrack till Saturday so I recommend you get yourself there!
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Emma Bell is a writer, reviewer and interviewer and can be found at