Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

La JohnJoseph presents A Generous Lover in the evocative setting of The Anatomy Lecture Hall within the multi-arts venue Summerhall. The stage is set with a white wooden chair, a white doctors partition and a white five foot high plinth. On this plinth is a cassette player. It is quite a cold setting, but this changes when our protagonist enters, puts in a tape, presses play and gives us a rendition of the Dionne Warwick classic ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose?’. The room is now warm and inviting. 

The story of A Generous Lover looks at mental health and more specifically bi-polar disorder. We hear about Orpheus and their time in a mental hospital. It is a traumatic tale where a lover attempts to rescue their partner from the edge. The journey is fraught with trauma, misunderstandings and pain. 

La JohnJoseph paints pictures with their words and the performer has a visual flair in their language. An art therapy class is eloquently described as a means to find solace. Art is constantly referenced throughout with Hogarth and Tracy Emin being mentioned alongside a variety of musicians. Music itself vital in A Generous Lover with our performer regularly breaking into song a means to convey deep and personal emotion.  

At one point during the performance our narrator turns the doctors partition (that has been situated towards the back of the stage) around to face the audience. The result is shocking and visually stunning. We see a large illustrated heart to the centre of the partition and two large hands at either side. The theme of care and mental health is emphasised in a dramatic and powerful way.

The tone and delivery of A Generous Lover oozes with passion and heart. At times the pace and delivery switches when the narrator takes on the persona of local gossips. Here a Liverpool lilt is used with a cutting force. On their website La JohnJoseph describes their practice as – ‘investigating the convergence of social class, gender identity, and religious faith in the matrices of social power’. With A Generous Lover these themes are laid bare in a dramatic and beautiful style.