“The execution is original and the result is deserving”
Fresh off the a successful Edinburgh Fringe run, Jasper Red’s Press Play has re-visited London for a victory lap. Star and the creator of the show, Natalie Walmsley, created drag persona Jasper as someone who has suddenly found an inner tranquility in meditation and healing. Jasper has brought us all together to share this new sense of discovered zen and help us align our chakras. “Ooooo, innit nice? Yeah” she exclaims.
I was fortunate enough to see a preview of Walmsley’s show months ago, when it was a current work-in-progress, before heading to the Edinburgh festival. I was privy to the first twenty minutes of the show back then and now, seeing it in full as a 45-minute show, I see that not much has changed in terms of script and plot. However, one thing had changed noticeably and it was Walmsley’s more realised and polished character. After her show was finalised and she did her month’s stint in Scottish capital, you could tell she knew what this show was now as a completed production. She has a great connection with her audience and you’re having just as much fun as she is.
Walmsley’s comical side came off endearing and also a bit purposely irritating – like an American drag queen meets a pushy yoga teacher meets Little Britain’s Marjorie Dawes. The character of Jasper Red embodies, in the typical millennial style, what it’s like to be ‘reborn again’ and ‘awakened through the power of healing crystals’…but only on the surface. Jasper’s love of Britney Spears, hate for reality television and obsession with social media brings this across a comical contrast.
As she teaches the audience how to align their chakras, we are told at points to close our eyes and do breathing exercises. We then hear the iMessage ‘ping’ noise, and open our eyes to see Walmsley’s character still talking us through exercises but on her phone with her messages projected on the screen. Hilarious group chat conversations show to be a highlight. The execution is original and the result is deserving.
There are a few points throughout where the comedy needs to be sharpened but a change of tone near the end brings everything that we’ve just seen into new, uncharted light. I’m rarely surprised when these scenarios in comedy shows come about as they try to take a serious turn, but Walmsley executed her ending well and a managed to get the audience laughing and then wiping away a tear thirty seconds later. A very intelligent and moving moment.
What’s next for Jasper Red? Will the production rear its head again or does Walmsley have something new in the pipeline? Who knows, but what we do know is that Jasper Red was a perfect fit for the fringe and comedy venues alike. A good first solo show for Walmsley and I hope there’s more to come.