Book – The Jollies
Author – Alan Ayckbourn
Year – 2002
Pages – 85
Genre – Play, Children’s

Polly Jollie, Billy Jollie and their mother Jilly Jollie go to see a performance by the great magician Mr Magico.  When seven year old Billy volunteers to enter their magic casket, he is not expecting to be transformed into a man over four times his age, and equally when his mum Jilly steps inside, she does not expect to emerge as an eight year old girl.  Poor Polly must deal with this turn of events, that sees them on the run from police.

A strange concept for a play, and it took me a dozen pages or so before I realised that this was most definitely a play for kids.  I have been in an Ayckbourn play – Comic Potential – many years ago, but I am pretty sure I have never just read one as is.  Therefore I was just a little disappointed at first that one of the most celebrated living playwrights – and certainly one of the most prolific – was writing in what was a somewhat basic style.  However, once you adjust for the age bracket, you realise that this is an incredibly fun play.

Many of the characters are larger than life, the story is weird and fantastical, and by having Polly break the fourth wall and speak to the audience, I imagine that this would be an incredibly effective piece of drama for young people getting their first taste of theatre.  Importantly, I also think that it would hold the attention of an adult audience.  Were I to find a performance of this piece, then I certainly would consider taking any of the children in my life to see it – Maddie would love it!

I am not sure you would though, and that is down to one writing choice.  The character of Mr Magico is a man from South East London, and yet in performance he talks in a faux Chinese accent.  This is done more to poke fun at the character than anything else, but it is interesting that it gives an uncomfortable feel when reading it currently.  The way that race is presented on stage is a big talking point of late, and this seems a prime example to show how even if meant as harmless, it may present as somewhat more problematic as time goes on.