Alice Malseed’s Jade City tackles all sorts of issues in a relatively short space of time: one hour and fifteen minutes, longer than the one hour listed. Within that time, Sas, and Monty’s experience of growing up together in Belfast exposes the reality of their situation. These two men, invested with little opportunity in life, revert to playing the ‘game’, a strategy that takes them into a world of make believe, where they can remain boyish and avoid the harsh reality of a male adulthood built on poor housing, low paid jobs and low expectations, writes Carolyn Hart Taylor. 

Bonded by their years together they may be, but a dark secret from the past exposes male brutality, subsequently fracturing the friendship and unveiling the mental and physical impact on victim, bystander and perpetrator. Opting to place Sas(Brendan Quinn) and Monty(Barry Calvert) in a boxing ring throughout allowed them to deal with weighty issues whilst reminding us that violence always permeates the arenas where deprivation and repression exist. 

Conveying the message further with the use of captions lends the production a necessary hollowness, mirroring the disconnect felt by the protagonists as they struggle to know who they are and what to do with their lives. When Monty declares, ’I never know what to do with a girl’, it’s apparent he’s no clearer about romantic relationships, 

Hearing of promising outcomes for past friends, they remain stuck in Jade City. Masculinity has relegated them to empty roles where they are strangers to themselves. Vulnerable, they live in a society where Sas tells us, ‘They don’t give housing to people like us single men’. 

This play highlights how working-class single men are left behind, and in Ireland, a country with high male to female suicide, Jade City is a potent reminder of the impact of physical, mental and material deprivation.

Calvert and Quinn give energetic, visceral performances, taking the audience with them to a night club, to the take-away, and also back to their childhood. Fittingly, we never really get to know these two characters who don’t know themselves. 

Weighty issues – good watch.

Jade City is on at The Bunker, 53A Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU until 21st. September. Times: Tuesday – Saturday 7.30pm. Admission: £10 – £16. Phone: 0207 234 0486. 

Photos: Ali Wright