Jumping the Barriers

There are many symbols of class division and expressions of social stratification in this country. I had not considered pistachios to be among them until I saw the look on Nathan’s face when offered some.

Never judge a passenger by his looks

Nathan’s more of a cheese and onion crisps and Pringles man. Actually, he’ll take anything he can lay his hands as long as he doesn’t have to pay for it, rather like the journey from Exeter to London. On the other hand James’ type would consider the nuts to be the must-have nibble on any journey.

The two men find themselves in themselves in the same train carriage. James is casually but respectably dressed, with headphones attached to his mobile phone and is comfortably settled for a relaxing ride with time to himself. Nathan is something of a disheveled mess in a tatty old coat who looks as though he might just be moving begging locations. He spends only a few minutes alone in a double seat before disturbing James’ peace and crossing the aisle to be with him. From that point on there is no escape; James is stuck with him.

The conversations reveal a classic posh-versus-plebeian encounter. From appearance through language to background, education and values these two are poles apart. Or at least that is how it seems at first. As the stations pass and the exchanges become more personal there turns out to be far more to Nathan than meets the eye. Meanwhile James’s shield is broken down and his doubts and insecurities are exposed. Ultimately the man who seems to have everything learns a lesson from a man who has nothing but is surprisingly knowledgeable and blessed with wisdom. Never judge a passenger by his looks.

Adam J S Smith has what it takes to cut the ‘Hooray Henry’ type. The look, and the accent fit perfectly as does the sense of initial repulsion he shows towards Nathan. He is less secure in delivery, where he displays uncharacteristic hesitancy. He is also given some lines reminiscent of dialogue from first attempts at devised pieces by teenagers preparing for public examinations. Here and elsewhere the script lacks polish and attention to detail. Conversely, Chris Daley’s scruffy scouser Nathan has all the confidence of a survivor with impertinence, wit and humour who can talk his way into and out of any situation.

Between them they form an odd couple whose encounter has some poignant moments and makes a mockery of attitudes to social class. Jumping The Barriers is not a groundbreaking piece of theatre but it has a certain charm and fascination. If viewed as work in progress it has plenty of potential. 

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The Blurb

Jumping the Barriers tells the story of a chance meeting on a train between a young graduate and a homeless man. James seemingly has it all – a good job, a nice flat in London and a girlfriend who loves him. Everything is sorted. And that’s the problem. Nothing exciting ever happens to him. Enter Nathan, a streetwise scouser who is homeless and has just bunked on the train. Their short journey shows us how first impressions can be deceiving, how often we take a lot for granted and that we always have a choice.