Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse | Review

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Unexpected Joy 

Southwark Playhouse 
Reviewed on Friday 7th September 2018 by Olivia Mitchell 

Unexpected Joy, more like an unexpected delight of a show. The latest of Aria Entertainment’s shows to hit London, Unexpected Joy follows three generations as a grandmother, mother and daughter come together after not seeing each other for a long time. There are secrets, past tensions and varying viewpoints which have the potential to break the family apart. This is a heartfelt show that just like real life, features moments of humour, sadness, joy, angst and above all, love. 

The show opens with Joy (Janet Fullerlove) welcoming us to her concert which is celebrating the life and music of her late husband, Jump. From the onset we see that Joy is a larger than life character who has always been a free spirit and is the opposite of her daughter.

Jodie Jacobs gives a moving performance as Rachel/Rainbow, the mother who is struggling to balance her beliefs with change and is losing her relationship with her daughter. Jacobs shows her internal struggle with a perfect subtlety and moments of pure vocal perfection. 

In her professional debut, Kelly Sweeney gives a mesmerising performance as the youngest family member, Tamara, who longs to break free of the constraints her mother has so carefully put on her in an attempt to not expose her to too much. Kelly brings an innocence and energy to Tamara that you can't help being drawn to and her impeccable vocals are to die for.

As Lou, Melanie Marshall brings humour and truth in equal measure and gives a fantastically vibrant performance. As the only person not in the family by blood, it's interesting to see how Lou becomes the mediator and is able to more easily see each side of the story. 

Bill Russell and Janet Hood's musical is a wonderfully nuanced show which brings light to a number of ever relevant issues without being overwhelmingly preachy. Amy Anders Corcoran's direction means that issues with race, social acceptability, and attitudes towards change are approached and discussed in a natural way. The fact that there is not a solid resolution at the end of the show just makes it that bit more truthful.

Unexpected Joy not only shows us the importance of family but also the importance of music to heal; with a number of catchy songs and tight and beautiful harmonies, it really showcases how music can transport us. 

The message throughout, that we should always take each others view points into consideration, even if we don't agree with them is needed now as ever. There will always be some common ground between people, you just have to be willing to look for it.

Unexpected Joy is a beautiful piece of theatre which allows us to see viewpoints of everyone and understand that although families argue, at the end of the day, everything they do for one another is for love. A female led production with wonderful songs, a heartfelt message and a whole lot of love, there's no reason not to see Unexpected Joy.

Unexpected Joy runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 29th September

photo credit: Pamela Raith