Review: Jam Tart/Lemon Kurd (Camden Fringe, online)

This show by Ragged Foils puts two half-hour plays together to form a whole, food-themed, whole. Both plays are monologues for older women, and both Claire of Jam Tart and Cathy of Lemon Kurd have stories to tell as this take the decision to do something different with their lives.

For Rhiannon Owens’s heroine, played by Katy Maw, the catalyst for change is the numerous candles on a birthday cake once she passes the age of mid-50s. Claire counts up all the things she didn’t do, or won’t do, realising her life has been long defined by her relationship to others as mother, partner, sister, friend, confidant. It is time to take charge of her life and do things on her own terms. The title of Jam Tart is loosely related to food, but her new extra-curricular activity is something rather unusual.

Promotional image for Jam Tart/Lemon Kurd

Cathy, played by Mary Tillett, in Nick Maynard’s Lemon Kurd, takes charge of her life in a different way following the loss of her husband. Lonely, stuck by her garden, birdwatching, she gets the urge to travel as she delves deeper into the politics of immigration and the plight of migrants. Her holiday romance with a young Kurdish refugee gives the play its title, and if this ageing Shirley Valentine is set to shock her children and neighbours, she’s resolute in finding her own definition of freedom.

Directed and produced by Natalie Winter, these plays feel influenced by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, with very realistic characters given a prime position to talk to us. Their stories are well-constructed and persuasively performed, and with good production values.

I found these pieces enjoyable and was pleased to see the middle-aged woman given a voice in tales which were rather funny and brutally honest. Maw’s performance in Jam Tart revels in her naughtiness while bristling at the unwanted attention of a male predator; Tillett’s newly aroused widow is both touching and tough.

You can watch Jam Tart/Lemon Kurd in the Camden Fringe until 29 August, on-demand – book your ticket here (£5).