There’s something about Alice Jones that I don’t quite trust. And I dislike my own distrust, because Jones writes very well. At least, she’s the sort of writer you want if you need an eloquent hagiography knocking up.
Because when she likes something, she worships at its feet. And when she hates something, she wants to expunge it from the earth. And there’s something about all this that’s not to be trusted.
To begin with, Jones never shows up at anything that really needs her there. She never casts her eye over an improvised three-hander at the White Horse. I mean, okay, she’s writing for a national paper (if you discount Scotland which, soon, we’ll have to), but still … it’s the Fringe. Even the hacks in the proper broadsheets take a look at the quirky underbelly from time to time.
Instead, Jones casts her eye over things that are already saturated with ink and buried under a pollen-cloud of bouquets, apart from Backstage In Biscuit Land, a show by a lady with Tourettes.
And this is the other thing about Jones: Pretty much everything she sees is remarkably worthy. Almost everything she looks at is concerned with feminism, or the issues of female identity, or about people overcoming adversity; all of which meet with her unqualified wonder and admiration. Sometimes a three-star award seems to jar a bit with phrases like “daft and uplifting, and in places, impossibly moving” and “Remarkable” so that the review of Biscuit Land starts to look a bit… well, condescending to be honest. Either score the show to suit your praise or give it three stars and ditch the platitudes. If you can’t watch a show about Tourettes without ejaculating socially-fabricated flannel as a response, then perhaps you haven’t learned all that much about it.
In this way you sense that something greater than aesthetics and a love of humour is guiding Jones; there’s an ethos to her reviewing and to the shows that she chooses. She doesn’t so much choose shows she thinks she’ll like as much as DECIDE which shows she’ll like. Or hate. It’s all the same thing really, because she chooses shows that are resolutely one thing or the other. She comes to either bury Caesar or to praise him.
I mean, nobody expects a critic from The Independent to have many kind words for Jim Davidson. But if their reviewer had reserved judgment until the end, or even said something positive – just to be contrary, perhaps – it would have woken up this reviewer-reviewer like a glass of water in the face. It would have made me think that Jones has some surprises and some gall. Some, um, independence. As it is, the opening trial-by-wardrobe – “As he prowls the stage in his baggy, timeshare-seller’s suit, lilac tie shining, he looks and sounds at home” – you know that Jones is just sizing up her kill. And the way she kills is just artless. Like she turned up with a hammer in her bag.
Neither would I expect Jones to maul a young female comic, but her steadfast refusal to mitigate her praise in any way at all gives me serious pause. I have seen Bridget Christie’s show; it is worth all the accolades and more for one reason – because it is funny. But the thing about women’s equality is, it doesn’t need propping up. It doesn’t need fanfares or nostrums. It excels (as Christie does) from the simple logic of its arguments. So I find myself asking: does Jones serve comedy, or does she serve some cause behind it? Because for all her feminist cheerleading (irony intended), Jones rarely tells us whether or not she laughed.
Jemyma C Noevil