What the papers say…

Winner: Best New Play Award, Brighton Fringe 2012  (The Last Lunch).

Shortlisted:  Best New Play Award, Brighton Fringe 2013 (The Silent Stream)

Winner: Best Male Performer, Brighton Fringe 2013 (Jonathan Brown for The Silent Stream)

Winner: Best Female Performer, Brighton Fringe 2014 (K Goodfellow, Smoking Ban)

Nominated:   Best Female Performer,    Brighton Fringe 2013 (Rachel Guershon for Betsy: Wisdom of a Brighton Whore)

Nominated:   Best Male Performer,    Brighton Fringe 2007 (Jonathan Brown for The Father Monologues)

5 Stars (Latest 7 Magazine, Licence 2012)

4 Stars (Fringe Review, Licence 2012)

4 Stars (Three weeks, Licence 2012) 

5 Stars!  Fringe Review, Betsy: Wisdom of a Brighton Whore 2013.

4 Stars! fringeguru.com Betsy: Wisdom of a Brighton Whore 2013

4 Stars! (Fringe Guru, Smoking Ban 2014)

4 Stars! (Broadway Baby, Smoking Ban 2014)

4 Stars! (3 Weeks, Smoking Ban 2014)

Argus Angel Winner, Brighton Fringe 2015, (Moon Tales, an SUTC-Supported Production.)

“…a must-see ….. his performance is very accomplished, bringing to life the showman for a 21st century audience. This is a royally good show, created by someone who clearly loves the city of the current and the past in equal parts.” Brighton Argus. on Jonathan Brown’s “The Silent Stream” May 2013.

“I really enjoyed it tonight. You are a great performer and able to play to the strengths of the script, *making* the twists and turns of character really clear…… clever and funny. Well done! A tour de force of a performance!” Sara Clifford, Playwright and script consultant on The Silent Stream

“… the captivating vitality of Brown’s multifaceted performance transport us…..presented confidently and honestly. Vast emotional range is reached A fantastic insight into the Fringe’s host city; Brown shines in his convincing depiction of a man who helped birth Brighton and the scandal that makes this city what it is.” Broadway Baby. May 2013 on The Silent Stream

5 Stars! “…Right from the start she blew us away. …. it was hard to remember that we weren’t actually watching two people…….. it will haunt me for years…………… a lot of very funny lines ….and an awesome piece of physical theatre…… Rachel Guershon is truly a woman to watch. Try to catch her if you can.” Fringe Review, Brighton, May 2013 on Betsy: Wisdom of a Brighton Whore.

4 Stars! “Rachel Guershon is great as Betsy, a spectacularly foul-mouthed but deeply flawed woman. Guershon is a wonderfully physical actor, and one of the highlights comes early in the play…. You can really feel the pain and fear in her performance.” www.fringeguru.com Brighton, May, 2013

“…wholehearted and studied performances and a clever script ……The effect is to give the play an intoxicating fluidity and unpredictability…….a gripping, expertly paced story. Some superbly dramatic set pieces, including a genuinely thrilling finale, ….well worth the effort.” The Argus May 2013 on The Well

“…so thrilled with your play and performance. The trilogy… is a compelling alternative history, as valid as any series of plays about a city or town in recent years… I don’t think there’s a more imaginative take on Brighton anywhere.
Your acting was inimitable,,,,, one could imagine these plays at the Royal Court….. your writing and acting really deserves a central presence….. it was mesmerising. Each of your theatrical works is becoming an event.” Simon Jenner on The Silent Stream, Waterloo Press.

“Betsy, performed with passion & easy rapport by actor Rachel Guershon…..writer Jonathan Brown knows how to drive a plot….. I will never look at the North Street clock tower again without seeing Betsy’s frightened face.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, May 2013 on “Betsy:….”

“I saw all three shows and really loved them. I thought the writing was brilliant – visceral & beautiful – and so rich in ideas, images and wordplay. It felt like real heart and soulwork. I loved the mix of the historical and the mystical and the way the three plays interlinked – really clever. They’d make a brilliant novel too, I thought, – sort of time travel magic realist Dickens. And to manage to do three plays all at once – all credit to you!” Rosanna Lowe, (Brighton-based writer, Times Young Travel Writer)

Review: Licence, A Younger Theatre, May 2010 by Fiona Mulvihill

“A perfect piece of fringe theatre. Brown takes you on a complex, funny & harrowing journey. a terrific eye for social observation …a profoundly moving piece of theatre. If you’re only going to see one play this festival, you’d be hard pressed to beat this.” Latest 7, Brighton Fringe 2010 On Licence…..

“… a wonderful, wonderful storyteller & totally captivated us… loved the humour, the darkness, the dangerous territories & the power of the message. I felt we were seeing you unravel a part of your soul….” Anita Sullivan, Playwright. On Licence…..

4 Stars, The Argus, on The Well 2011

“…beautifully performed & exquisitely written….funny in the right places & thought provoking throughout…..a huge writing & acting talent at work – one of the stand-out nights of the Brighton Fringe” Nick Stockman. Brighton Fringe Manager on Large Print Trash

Simply outstanding! From the outset this piece was compelling. Jonathan is a consummate actor and held the audience single-handedly in awe with his amazing multi-characterisations.
impeccably acted, completely convincing… Without going into the fine detail of Jonathan’s writing, the story is both extremely amusing and profoundly sad…..every nuance of this issue examined with finesse and intelligence. I can not praise this performance enough. From the very evident skill of Jonathan as an actor to the profundity and humour of his writing. I was not surprised to read he was a 2007 nominee for the Brighton Fringe, rightly so. This work was extraordinary and compelling and his other work will undoubtedly be so. A huge talent. Highly recommended. Extract of a Review of “Licence” by Journalist Ian Reuben…

***** I saw this show in Lewes and I thought it was astounding. Licence is brilliant- Jonathan is an amazingly good actor- my husband and I completely believed in all the different characters he presented, which left us free to enjoy the engaging story. I am, quite honestly, very fussy about theatre and haven’t rated many of the things I have seen over the last few years but this show made me laugh AND moved me, and I left feeling different. A great achievement and well worth seeing- I am going again! Sally Miller, Wishworks

***** Jonathan Brown’s writing is spot-on and is superbly coupled with his outstanding performance skills, which allow an extended cast of characters to be brought alive on stage by a singular actor. The best of it’s type (although License is probably more accurately in its own league.) An exceptional performance – must be seen to be believed. Fiona Mulvihill

“We love having you here! I thought the show was great – The audience feed back has been very positive. The youth theatre particularly enjoyed it and it was good for them to see how theatre can be made without heaps of set and props. Yes I would be more than happy to say nice things (to other artistic directors) – Yes very interested in the next performance (of The Well). Charlie Dearden, Artistic director, Bridgwater Arts Centre.

4 Stars. “This production is a powerful example of physical theatre. The cast play not only the characters, but also the scenery and props on a bare stage in front of an edifice of scaffolding and ladders. They achieve this with some spectacular imagery aided by creative lighting and haunting songs. The audience is required to play its part by using their imagination and accepting that more than one person plays the same character. A hardworking cast of six balance the requirements of acting skills and exhausting physical activity while the production is enhanced by three acapella singers whose songs underline and punctuate the action.” The Argus. Brighton. on The Well

“Jonathan Brown takes us on an emotional rollercoaster as a lovable landlord of a local Brighton pub. Through small scenarios that subtly link, we get an insight into not only how his mind works, but how other people perceive him in general.”

Review: (with spoilers removed)

Brighton Town Hall was transformed into a typical British pub for this different and intense one man show License, devised and performed by Jonathon Brown. The set was simple – two chairs with a jacket and tie over one, with a newspaper on the other. On the other side, a table was representing a bar area with a British flag over it. With the general flood of lighting, it gave a very heart warming feel to the space as the audience walked in.

As soon as Jonathon walked out on stage with his back to us, we knew instantly we were in for a treat. …..a rollercoaster ride of how an East London landlord runs a Brighton pub as well as little insights into his personal and family life.

Jonathon’s character reminded me somewhat of “Del Boy” in “Only Fools and Horses”, because of his quick wit, the cheekiness, the lovable rogue element, the wheeler and dealer and so on. His energy and charm really engaged the audience all the way throughout the show and the interactive elements were really nicely controlled.

Due to the type of show that it is – somewhat brash and ‘in your face’ a lot of the time, some of the audience were a little overawed by him looking directly into their eyes as he was speaking the words. However, this did not distract from the fact that Jonathon as a performer is very strong and clearly enjoys what he does.

There were occasions when the voice became a little monotonous in tone and some of his characteristics (such us breathing through his teeth) became a bit repetitive, but it didn’t last long as the show took on a more dramatic turn which hooked us in right until the end.

License not only focussed on the landlord character, but on his family and the customers he served. The way he changed into a teenage boy, then became a posh social worker lady, and a drunk local the next minute was seemless and extremely entertaining. But it was the way in which he dealt with other serious issues such as exploring the idea of child abuse, materialism vs. reality and loss of a family member which really interested me. It was not only the sensitive way these issues were dealt with, but there were so many deliberate red herrings thrown in, that it almost became like his favourite soap opera Eastenders.

The emotional journey we were taken on in the second half as questions were answered and personal epiphanies were had, was extremely well handled and really showed us a very different side to the landlord. The use of physical theatre …..was particularly striking as he controlled each action well. It could have been really over the top in general, but it didn’t get that far and brought the rollercoaster of a journey to a nice close as he brought things back in a full circle to the beginning.
Jonathon Brown is a very exciting performer to watch and License is certainly a show which is going to be even more dynamic as it grows.” Reviewed by Sascha Cooper (Fringe Review)
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Jonathan Brown…as the play developed, it was Jonathan’s superb acting and writing talent… that really shone through. As just one man reliving a series of situations, stepping in and out of the action, he went through a brilliant range of characters (and associated voices). The story became ever more harrowing as it progressed towards the climax. I left needing to think it over, but at the same time wanting more. (Olly Hunt – Threeweeks) . tw rating: 4/5 on Licence 2010

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Four stars. The Father Monologues, Part 1, Danny.
“Everything about the first part of this trilogy of plays about fatherhood – the meagre set, the one-man set up – screams sparse. But as gambler, all-round chav and reluctant father Danny, writer and performer Jonathan Brown thrives on the heightened intimacy.
We see Danny – a kind of Lee Hurst/Rodney trotter hybrid – stumbling around, searching for purpose as he struggles to come to terms with the impending birth of his second child. The regression therapy scenes are particularly impressive, as Danny re-enacts his harrowing birth scene, contorting his body into a foetal mass of flapping arms and legs, It almost feels like you’re having the therapy yourself, and that’s testament to Brown’s authentic and touching portrayal. ”
Velimir Ilic, The Metro, Bristol, June 4th 2008

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“Lewes Writer’s Last Lunch” (Sussex Express Article)

Licence: Nione Meakin, The Argus, Oct 2009 »

Inspired by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads – much of which is set in the playwright’s home town of Leeds, Jonathan Brown locates his works in Woodingdean, where he grew up.
“You know the place, you know the type of people you encounter and there are so many stories to be told,” he says.

After the Father Monologues, in which he examined our concepts of paternity, Jonathan has begun work on a new series of plays that explore the various journeys he has made with substances; the first of which is alcohol.

Like many graduates, Jonathan left university with a degree but no direction and spent a period working in a few of Brighton’s many bars and pubs, serving booze, watching others drink it and enjoying it a little too much himself. It is these experiences that inform Free Beer.

The play plots the last few days in the life of a pub (partly based on troubled Woodingdean boozer The Toby, which closed after a number of violent incidents) as told by landlord Bernie “whose whole life is beer-soaked”. But when Bernie’s ten-year-old son Teddy starts sampling the stock, his best mate starts smacking the kids and wife Margaret takes to the toilet for almost an entire episode of EastEnders, he starts to lose his faith. Jonathan, who is now teetotal, says: “It’s definitely a sideways swipe at the alcohol industry – there’s no getting around it.”

He likes the freedom and autonomy of one-man shows but is branching out in a rather different direction for his next play. “This one is set in Woodingdean again where, in the 1860s, there was a well dug which turned out to be the deepest land-dug well in the world.

“It was dug by men with spades and they went down 1,300ft. It was to supply water to the workhouse at the top of Elm Grove, now the Brighton General.

“It’s a fascinating, Dickensian, Brunel-esque story of intrigue and with six people it’s a bit more epic.”

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“What does it mean to be a father in the 21st century? Writer and actor Jonathan Brown asks this question in these two self-penned monologues. Brown is completely convincing as the cockney-sounding lager lout Danny. The piece is an interesting study of how a father can feel excluded from the process of childbirth and child-rearing, swamped by emotions they have no tools to express. Come back the next day and you will meet Jenny, a capable librarian who….denied access to son Tim, enlists Shakespeare in an elaborate gender-bending plot to put things right. Brown is a fine writer and actor, and these are funny, carefully observed character studies.” The Scotsman. Edinburgh Fringe 2006

From the The Argus, first published Thursday 17th May 2007.

The Father Monologues Part 1- Danny. ‘Ninety minutes with the side of your Dad you never knew’. Jonathan Brown has written and performs this unusual and compelling one man show exploring fatherhood, beer drinking, horse racing culture and regression therapy. On the whole, the piece is witty, boasting finely observed characters that make for colourful, if abstract viewing, and although the script may at times border on repetitive, Brown possesses such control and versatility that he skillfully and one handedly creates a whole cast of personalities that ensure the audience remain engaged. This is acting laid bare, one man and his words, making for raw, powerful, abstract drama. Three weeks Brighton Fringe 2007. Helen Shutt (who seemed to expect some one at the show to play HER father and pay for her taxi home.

“I’ve always been interested in how men find ways of being emotional with each other, to be intimate with each other without being afraid,” says Jonathan Brown, the writer-performer of The Father Monologues trilogy. “Because there’s always a danger of being accused of being gay, or soft or not a real man’. A lot of men turn to women for emotional support, rather than to each other.” He was inspired to write the first part of the series, which he will stage tonight, when his wife became pregnant with their first child. Brown began to focus on notions of fatherhood and masculine identity, resulting in the funny and thought-provoking story of the “apathetic, gambling chav dad Danny”. The second instalment (Tuesday, June 24) centres on the life of “gender-reassigned librarian” Jenny and features the unique spectacle of “a man playing a man playing a woman playing a woman playing a man making love to a man”. These carefully observed character studies will see Brown performing alone, aided only by subtle lighting changes and the minimal use of props. But he will be joined by guitarist Rafaelle Bizzoca for Billy: The Musical (Tuesday, July 15), which is Brown’s most ambitious project to date by far. The three-hour show – Brown advises audience members to “bring a cushion” – premiered last month at the Brighton Fringe Festival and has since been reworked to make it “more crisp and more finely tuned”. advertisement The lead character is Billy, best friend of Danny in Part One and Jenny’s lover in Part Two. “It’s partly about him and partly about someone else I’ve been reading about – Dr Benjamin Rush, the founding father of modern American psychiatry,” Brown explains. In a quest to “recall who his father was”, Billy undergoes regression therapy, only to find he has regressed to a “past life” – that of Dr Rush. “In order to get therapy he gets himself referred to a psychiatrist by faking mental illness,” he says. “So we get to look at the mental health system in the present day as well as examining its origins.” Brown was born and raised in Brighton, going on to work as a physics teacher, before moving to the West Country in the 1990s and retraining as a performance artist. “I performed as a teacher, because physics is dull, there’s no way around it,” he says. “I always tried to have a laugh and have fun with the children I taught. “But I was desperate to delve into what was making me tick subconsciously. I had to find a way of expressing my emotional side.” The Father Monologues, All Saints’ Centre, Lewes. In the Argus. Interview By Warren Pegg 2008

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“A man walks into the office, with a toddler papoosed onto his back. He hands me a leaflet. It reads: The Father Monologues. He turns out to be Jonathan Brown, who was nominated for the Best Male Performer in the Brighton Fringe this year, for two one-man shows, ‘Danny’ and ‘Jenny’, which he is performing over the weekend in the Hibbert Room of the Westgate Chapel. I decide to interview him there and then. He takes the child off his back. “Danny is about a Brightonian Chav, who starts behaving very strangely when his wife is pregnant with their second child,” he says. “She starts moving in home birthing circles, and tells him that he should see a regressional therapist. He’d rather go down the pub, or down the races.” Jonathan plays the part of Danny, who mimics all the other characters in the play. “On the whole people have been happy to accept where I’m asking them to go.”
The other play, ‘Jenny’, sees Jonathan go way into weird meta-theatre territory. “The play is about a transgender father,” he says. “There’s a Shakespearian play within the play, so I end up playing a man playing a woman playing a man playing a woman.” Jonathan puts the baby back on his back, while telling me about the Brighton Fringe Awards Ceremony. “I was notified last minute, and had to come straight from a camping holiday in Devon,” he says. “I was in wellies, everybody else was in tuxes.” (AL, Editor). An extract of an article in VIVA LEWES Webmag

 

It’s a test for any performer: the one- man (or woman) show – a stumble or a hesitation and there’s nobody else to pick up the drama and cover up for you.

Jonathan Brown, from Devon, performed his drama, The Father Monologues, in Edinburgh this summer. The one-man play will be at Bridgwater Arts Centre next Friday. This is a drama based on a contemporary young dad called Danny. He drinks, gambles and scoffs at his partner’s attempts to change his life. Containing strong language, adult themes and nudity, the play is a tour de force of the talents of this new playwright. Harry Mottram (From Western Daily Press)