When Juniper meets Juliet (“everyone calls me Jules”) in a crowded bar, sparks fly even though Jules has a boyfriend and has never thought of being with a woman.
Initially passionate, their relationship grows under Stephanie Martin’s choice of short, punchy scenes to illustrate their ups and downs. It encapsulates how love can grab you and let you see nothing else.
Juniper has always liked women, but has never been able to settle. With Jules she is controlling and clingy, but Jules also pushes the boundaries into psychological cruelty. They goad each other but seem to thrive on the hurt.
This is a visceral piece which doesn’t flinch from the realities around queer relationships. When Jules wants to open up their sex life to other people and experiences (surprisingly only with other women) it feels like an escape from the boredom of home.
We only really see the pair in the bedroom or on text exchanges (which might be more effective seen rather than described, as Naughty did in last year’s Camden Fringe). In bed, playtime becomes a place where sleep doesn’t come and touch isn’t welcome.
Allegiances shift. I came away curious about both women but with many questions unanswered. What was really behind Juniper’s dislike of men in any capacity? What made Jules explore her sexuality so quickly?
What I really wanted a glimpse into was the daily routine for Juniper and Jules, to see how the homebody and the hedonist interacted with their clothes on (although, spoiler, there’s no disrobing here at any point).
Stella Taylor (Juniper) and Gabriella Schmidt (Jules) have played these roles since its first showing at 2019’s Vault Festival, so have a believable chemistry and trust in each other. They also catch the humour in Martin’s writing.
There is an ache in the inability of Juniper and Jules to embrace their feelings fully, beautifully conveyed but a little unsettling. Bethany Pitts directs with a keen and sympathetic eye for the material.
Juniper and Jules isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking piece, but it does challenge perceptions of what women are and should be in the queer space, so is never less than intriguing.
You can see Juniper and Jules at Soho Theatre Upstairs until 14 May – book tickets here.
Image credit: Ali Wright