I wasn’t bothered about going to see Gloria until I found out that it was written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who penned the recent, brilliant production of An Octoroon at the Orange Tree Theatre. Stylistically, Gloria is full of surprises and sharp wit, like the previous play; plot-wise, however, it couldn’t be more different.
Gloria is set in the world of magazine journalism, and the first act introduces us to a group of young people working for the same production, including a naive intern, a disillusioned editorial assistant, and a would-be fashion writer who spends more time in the Starbucks queue than she does actually working. Not to mention the Gloria of the title, a long-standing member of the team who’s seen as slightly weird. It’s an on-the-nose take about working life for millennials, but just when you think you know what’s going on, a major event occurs that will have repercussions for everyone involved.
The play as a whole becomes an intelligent look at who has the right to tell whose stories, how these stories are manipulated to make money, and how people get caught up in the cut-throat world of the media. The actors, including Colin Morgan, Ellie Kendrick and Kae Alexander, play more than one character throughout the piece, which is cleverly done and often surprising.
Gloria was nominated for a Pulitzer, which I don’t find at all surprising. It’s funny, shocking and very clever, with the sort of themes and characters you can’t stop thinking about for days afterwards. Based on this and An Octoroon, I very much hope that more plays by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins make their way over to the UK.