Too Much Punch For Judy at Upstairs at the Gatehouse review: “Fresh, entertaining and highly relevant”

PUBLISHED: 17:42 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 11:08 23 August 2017

Jo (Alana Ramsey) and Judy (Alice Imelda) in Too Much Punch for Judy

Jo (Alana Ramsey) and Judy (Alice Imelda) in Too Much Punch for Judy

Archant

Anyone wishing for a roller coaster emotional ride at the Camden Fringe need go no further than the true life tale of a teenager who killed her sister in an alcohol-related drink/driving accident.

Pc Caten (Edward Mitchell) and PC Abrahams (Chloe Orrock) in Too Much Punch for JudyPc Caten (Edward Mitchell) and PC Abrahams (Chloe Orrock) in Too Much Punch for Judy

Too Much Punch For Judy is a powerful verbatim play from Mark Wheeller which centres on the relationship between sisters Jo and Judy and the tragic consequences of a night out.

The drama, from JR Theatre Company, kicks off with high energy laughs from the two sisters, their mum Vi, their friends, establishing their close bond and the girls’ love of booze.

Dancing at their favourite wine bar two men with cheesy chat up lines try to win them over and offer to buy them a drink. “Make mine a white wine,” shouts Judy over the music, “Make that a bottle,” adds her sister. “Each!” they chorus.

Then the car crash, in slow motion, death reigning down on Jo in the passenger seat as the Carpenter’s We’ve Only Just Begun blares from the radio.

In truth the car is just a box; the set is very sparse, a photograph of the vehicle projected on a screen bringing home the horror.

All the performances are superb from Alice Imelda’s gobby Judy and Alana Ramsey’s happy-go-lucky Jo to Richard Blackman’s sober retelling as first witness (as well as louche Lothario Nob in the wine bar).

Vi, played by Hilary Burns, is heartbreaking and so too Edward Mitchell’s grief-stricken PC Chris Caten, the family friend, who is forced to break the news of Jo’s death to her mother, then to Judy.

The play, with all the words taken from interviews of those involved at the time, is now in its 30th year.

Even with a pulsating 80’s soundtrack it is fresh, entertaining and as highly relevant today as it was when first aired in 1987.

Verbatim dramas often pack a punch with their intensity and this one doesn’t disappoint. Prepare to be knocked out.

£12 (£10 conc)

Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, 21-27 August.

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