Student theatre is well and truly back with a bang, and thankfully it’s here to stay. Mermaids (The University of St Andrews Performing Arts Fund) put on their third performance of the year in The Barron at the Byre with The Love of Jude, written and directed by third year student Joseph Cohen and produced by third year Nick Adams. It follows a somewhat dysfunctional family who, still coming to terms with the recent death of Jude, decide to celebrate his birthday. With an ambiguous setting, the play possesses a definite universal relatability, amplified by the bickering and occasional non-PC comments, that I’m sure are familiar to most audience members. All the while, normal family dynamics play out on a darker backdrop of grief and adultery.
Despite a slightly slow start, The Love of Jude very quickly finds its feet and to great effect, reaching a palpably tense climax, with visible reactions from the audience members in particularly heated argument scenes; a testament to the impressive acting shown across the board. Special mention must go to Oscar Cooper, eminently believable in his portrayal of Jude’s selfish and ignorant father. Similarly notable were the performances of Katherine Grainge as Michael, Jude’s peacekeeping brother, and Luke Adams as Hector. He is the arrogant and fiery boyfriend to Jude’s sister, Jemimah, played by Emma Hearn who also confidently assumes her role as a troubled and self-destructive woman.
The cyclical structure chosen by Cohen is especially effective, brought to life by the striking performance of Alice Banks as Marjorie, Jude’s mother, who both opens and closes the show with her convincing sobs. The play is also very visually engaging from start to finish, from the interesting use of colour in the costumes to the almost constant movement of characters on and off stage, which allowed for a clever and dynamic use of space available in The Barron. Throughout the play none of the characters touch, which I at first thought was a deliberate choice to show the emotional distance between the family members. However, after the show Cohen explained to me this was because it was originally written with fluctuating Covid-19 restrictions in mind. It is interesting to see how even with the much-awaited return of student theatre post-lockdown, the effect of the pandemic is still very much visible on stage.
Short but emotionally packed and well-paced, The Love of Jude appears polished and well-rehearsed. After a strong start to the year, I’m excited for all else student theatre has to offer in the coming months, and minimal empty seats in the Barron suggests others feel the same. If you’re interested in attending the next Mermaid’s production and supporting the return of student performing arts, tickets for This Way Out are available for November 14th and 15th at the Barron (at the Byre) at 7:30pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve tickets. Details about future performances can be found on their Facebook page.