There are preternaturally gifted playwrights and then there’s Jasmine Lee-Jones. Her award-winning debut play seven methods of killing kylie jenner ran at the Royal Court in 2019 when she was just 20. Now, aged 22, she’s written her own show, curious, in which she also stars at the Soho Theatre. She plays Jaz, a Black queer drama-school student who feels no connection to the Restoration plays (or “resto”, as her pretentious classmates call them) she’s forced to study. So she goes on a quest to find out if there were Black female actors like her in the 18th century, while simultaneously unearthing the forgotten history of Black people in the UK.
It’s a story of discovery, in both a research and a personal sense, as Jaz’s curiosity leads her down paths within herself she didn’t even know existed. Any one-person show faces challenges in holding an audience’s attention, but this production does it with ease. A velvet-draped four-poster bed serves as Jaz’s playground, a space where she can give life to the other characters she voices, including the Restoration actor she discovers. Under Anna Himali Howard’s direction, sound effects, music and pulsating lights transform Jaz’s room into her drama school, a Topshop changing room (RIP) and a lesbian rave.
While Camilla Clarke and Rosie Elnile’s design adds immense depth to Jaz’s world, it’s testament to Lee-Jones that she never seems alone on that stage. As seven methods proved, she is a phenomenal writer. Monologues flow naturally off the tongue; poetic stanzas slip in and out of spoken-word cadences. Her dialogue feels natural too – even when Jaz is voicing every character in a conversation. The supporting roles initially feel a little more stereotypical than the lead – if only to clearly differentiate them from one another – but become more nuanced as the plot develops.
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