Review: O Jackie
Image: Stage Theatre Company
Jake Eiseman-Renyard - John Wyatt
Faye Maughan - Rebecca Storm
Dennis Farrin - Costas Gavros
Jassie Mortimer - Stephanie Carrington
Nick Pelas - Aristotle Onassis
Justin McKenna - News Anchor
Sara Figueiredo - Jackie Kennedy
Natalia Ambrosia - Maria Callas
Madame Kapuscinska - Wedding Singer
"Sex is a bad thing because it rumples the clothes" (Jackie Kennedy).
Based on the love triangle between Aristotle Onassis, Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas, all icons of their day - and the tragedies that occurred when the rivalry spiralled out of control.
This one has it all, passion, intrigue, comedy, eroticism, murder and more - plus audience plate smashing participation and a live performance from an award-winning vocalist.
Even if there have already been plenty of stories about Jackie Kennedy and her marriages to John F Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis, there are surely new angles to explore about her life and relationships to make a worthy and intriguing play.
However, in this work by Nick Pelas, the sheer amount of information delivered is rather overwhelming, so the focus of what the play is really about and trying to elucidate gets almost completely lost.
The play starts with a lengthy recorded rendition of Maria from West Side Story, which is an exceptional and enjoyable song, but it seemed unnecessary and inappropriate to play the whole of it as an introduction.
Once the play gets underway, we find ourselves on the Greek Island of Skorpios back in 1968 on the day of the wedding of Jackie Kennedy and shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.
A BBC news reporter is covering the event, but seems (unbelievably) to have done no research for her assignment, and has no knowledge about the immensely famous characters about to be hitched.
So a British consulate official has the highly contrived and unlikely task of filling-in the background details about the hugely wealthy businessman for whom "everything he touches turns to gold".
Mr Onassis also has a golden touch with women and we hear of numerous affairs with his personal assistant, the opera singer Maria Callas and Jackie Kennedy (even before her first husband's assassination, the play suggests).
Much of the dialogue is lacklustre and laboured with some lengthy, almost unfathomable speeches towards the end.
And the overall direction is flaccid, lacking the finesse and authority to make the piece work effectively and believably.
The voice of a radio news anchor sounds as though it is delivered live, rather than being recorded, lending a somewhat clumsy feel to proceedings.
And a sizeable cast rather clutters the small stage for much of the time, contributing to the overall lack of focus and clarity in the story, though we do hear a well-sung song from Madame Kapuscinska as the singer at the wedding party.
In case you're wondering, the title neatly reverses the nickname 'Jackie O' given to Jacqueline Onassis by the paparazzi.
My best guess is that the title meant to indicate that Jackie Kennedy was on a losing bet when she signed-up to wed Ari Onassis, given his former romantic dalliances and persona.
But sadly, Nick Pelas's real intentions never become apparent, or at least as clear as they ought to be, and I suspect his multi-tasking as writer, director and actor might well have been his downfall in that regard.
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ActDrop listing for Barons Court Theatre
Our show listing for O Jackie
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