Taking the audience on a journey through her last year of school before university, Hannah Baker's self-written debut play Banter Jar queries the boundaries between love, happiness and responsibility through an interesting perception of mental health. The one-woman comedy, starring a character of the same forename, questions if being understanding and brought together by struggles, really does end well.
Beginning with a scene depicting Hannah busking, which is later repeated in the show, we hear some of her great vocals, alongside an introduction to her excellent storytelling. Her energetic characterisation appears skilful from the outset, as she refreshingly starts to turn the uninspiring stage into a variety of locations, including the bus or a club, with minimal props, and a little help from the creative lighting. In addition, we meet others in her life and their mannerisms in a way that means their interpretation comes naturally- particularly the pie man!
As she learns more about the world, Hannah experiences several tough decisions, specifically with regards to her relationships with those around her, including her best friend and mum, alongside her newfound boyfriend, Ezekiel, who often also finds things turbulent. However, it's clear that she is able to make some positive moments too, such as her 'first time', and getting absolutely 'gazeboed' (an audience-given noun turned verb, to replace getting drunk!) and questioning her sexuality. With a reoccurring mention of self harm and suicide, this play thrives on the dark humour so candidly expressed, as everyone falls apart and pieced together, sharing both pain and pancakes.
Directed by Chris Larner, Banter Jar is like FaceTiming a close friend: deep conversation mixed with laughs and a bit of fun too. It makes you feel part of Hannah's story, which is one of relevance.