John and JenThe resistance to develop your parent’s behavioral patterns is a common thread found in all. Normal idiosyncrasies one can learn to live with, but when your father’s traits stem from control and abuse, the constant fear of likeness would understandingly be a much heavier load.

Such is life in John and Jen, a beautiful and compelling piece of musical theatre staged in the Loft Theatre at Chapel off Chapel. Simple, yet effective, the story focuses on Jen’s sisterly love for her little brother, John and her fierce protection of him from their out of sight, yet never out of mind violent father. When of age however, Jen flees her family to discover college, leaving John behind to bear the brunt of his domineering father alone. As a result of outside influences, these two siblings invariably head into contrasted directions, clashing in the process. When John however, fails to return from his ill-fated direction, Jen is left to revel in guilt after failing in her promise to protect him.

With this as the powerful and conclusive first act, you wonder what story there could be left to tell after interval. And that is the beauty of this piece, the utter truth in the aftermath and the lifelong consequences that follow. Still driven by anger and guilt at her failure, Jen attempts to rewrite her past wrongs when raising her own son John. What concedes however, is the worst kind of realisation, as she begins to resonate the one figure she has continuously run from, her own father.

Why this delicate piece succeeds is the outstanding talent of the two performers, Lisa Marie Charalambous and Chris Durling. Both move effortlessly between each emotional change and bring far more to the performance than their beautiful voices, continual energy and brilliant character transitions. They create a beautiful and caring brother/sister and mother/son relationship that all can identify and find understanding with. Even with the enormous score, both worked exceptionally well with the two musicians and the simple production design only enhanced their performance in this intimate space.

It was refreshing to see a musical where the love story between the two characters was not romantic, sexual or cliché. This was a bond; a love that is a given and one has little control over. Yet, this type of love is unbreakable, no matter how hard people try and mistakes can be forgiven for the right and sometimes, even wrong reasons.

Pain hurts, yet healing hurts much more. And ultimately driven by this, a very special piece has been created by two talented performers who are in their absolute element.

John & Jen
by Andrew Lippa

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel | 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran Melways: Map 2L Ref J10
Dates: 12 – 28 September
Times: Thurs – Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm
2pm Matinee Fri 26
Tickets: $30 Full, $25 Concession, Groups 10+ and Preview (+transaction fee)
Bookings: 03 8290 7000 or

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