“If two people love each other, why shouldn’t they get married?”
Bill Russell’s Unexpected Joy is the musical story of “three generations of female singers, long-held family tensions and a week together where change is in the air.”
Popstar Joy is visited by her daughter, Rainbow (who has changed her name to Rachel following a conversion to Christianity) and granddaughter Tamara.
Since the death of her partner, Joy has fallen in love and successively got engaged to another woman, who also happens to be a singer: Lou.
Rachel, being a strict Christian, is fundamentally against same-sex marriage. Not only does she disagree with it, but the Christian TV show presented by her husband openly lashes out at members of the LGBTQ+ community.
— Unexpected Joy (@UnexpectedLDN) September 12, 2018
Indeed, Joy has a challenge ahead of her. By contrast, her granddaughter Tamara is ever-loving and ever-supportive of her “Glam-ma”, as she calls her.
Joy and Rachel clash on a great many things: Joy, as expected, is a vivacious, lively character. She was unable to pick her family up from the airport at the beginning of the play, having spent the night in prison for political protest.
Of course, Rachel is horrified. Throughout the play, much reference is made to the inherent differences between the two of them: when Rachel was a child, she was constantly surrounded by the debauchery of the musician lifestyle, which her parents being in a band together, lived.
Rachel still feels upset that her mother and father never married: Joy describes this as the result of neither “believing” in marriage.
Beautifully enacted, Unexpected Joy is a heart-warming tale of family politics, coming of age, and growing old. With both a small cast and small set, this play feels incredibly intimate.
There’s a happy ending, too. The only criticism I would make is that the chemistry between Joy and her fiancée Lou is lacking. There isn’t much of a connection between the pair, and their most intimate moment is a quick peck on the lips.
Still, what matters the most is the point Unexpected Joy set out to, and succeeded, in making: that if two people love each other, why shouldn’t they get married?
Love is love.
Review by @eleanornoyce
Unexpected Joy is at Southwark Theatre from 5-29 September 2018. Book your tickets here.