Simon Gray’s Japes is a black comedy with an unusual slant on the classic love triangle. It was first performed at the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, on 23 November 2000 before transferring to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, opening on 7 February 2001.
The play spans nearly thirty years, from the 1970s to the 1990s. Brothers Michael and Jason ‘Japes’ Cartts share the house in which they grew up, and then share the woman they both love. The object of their affection, Anita, becomes Michael’s wife whilst remaining Japes’ lover. This ménage-a-trois results in a fraternal relationship based on guilt and dependence ¬as toxic as it is supportive. Michael becomes the successful author whilst Japes’ academic career stalls and he hits the bottle. Anita is stuck between this intense rivalry but is herself afflicted by her indecision and the nagging feeling that she married the wrong brother. The full ramifications of this situation only become clear in the final scene when Gray introduces a fourth character, Michael and Anita's daughter Wendy, and shifts our perspective outside of the central threesome for the first time.
The premiere production was directed by Peter Hall and designed by John Gunter, with Toby Stephens as Jason, Jasper Britton as Michael and Clare Swinburne as Anita/Wendy.