Jonathon Brown takes us on an emotional rollercoaster as a lovable landlord of a local Brighton pub. Through small scenarios that subtly link, we get an insight into not only how his mind works, but how other people perceive him in general.
Brighton Town Hall was transformed into a typical British pub for this different and intense one man show License, devised and performed by Jonathon Brown. The set was simple - two chairs with a jacket and tie over one, with a newspaper on the other. On the other side, a table was representing a bar area with a British flag over it. With the general flood of lighting, it gave a very heart warming feel to the space as the audience walked in.
As soon as Jonathon walked out on stage with his back to us, we knew instantly we were in for a treat. The start of the show was a little controversial in the sense of him making hushing sounds and moving his arms as if he was comforting a baby, then when one arm started moving backwards and forwards and he started saying ‘come on’, the audience was led to believe that he was masterbating…until he turned round to show that he was cleaning a pint glass! Immediately this set the tone of what was to come - a rollercoaster ride of how an East London landlord runs a Brighton pub as well as little insights into his personal and family life.
Jonathon’s character reminded me somewhat of "Del Boy" in "Only Fools and Horses", because of his quick wit, the cheekiness, the lovable rogue element, the wheeler and dealer and so on. His energy and charm really engaged the audience all the way throughout the show and the interactive elements were really nicely controlled.
Due to the type of show that it is - somewhat brash and ‘in your face’ a lot of the time, some of the audience were a little overawed by him looking directly into their eyes as he was speaking the words. However, this did not distract from the fact that Jonathon as a performer is very strong and clearly enjoys what he does.
There were occasions when the voice became a little monotonous in tone and some of his characteristics (such us breathing through his teeth) became a bit repetitive, but it didn’t last long as the show took on a more dramatic turn which hooked us in right until the end.
License not only focussed on the landlord character, but on his family and the customers he served. The way he changed into a teenage boy, then became a posh social worker lady, and a drunk local the next minute was seemless and extremely entertaining. But it was the way in which he dealt with other serious issues such as exploring the idea of child abuse, materialism vs. reality and loss of a family member which really interested me. It was not only the sensitive way these issues were dealt with, but there were so many deliberate red herrings thrown in, that it almost became like his favourite soap opera Eastenders.
The emotional journey we were taken on in the second half as questions were answered and personal epiphanies were had, was extremely well handled and really showed us a very different side to the landlord. The use of physical theatre as he depicted two thugs destroying the pub and the chaos created by this situation was particularly striking as he controlled each action well. It could have been really over the top in general, but it didn’t get that far and brought the rollercoaster of a journey to a nice close as he brought things back in a full circle to the beginning. As he finally gets close to his son in the aftermath, he once more resumed the hushes - this time as he comforted his son.
Jonathon Brown is a very exciting performer to watch and License is certainly a show which is going to be even more dynamic as it grows.
Reviewed by Sascha Cooper 7th May 2010