Stuart Slade’s debut play Cans premiers at Theatre 503, a cosy and lovely space where this play finds the intimacy it requires.
After a quick browse through the play text the immediate thing that popped out was the word ‘fuck’ and its variations in every single page. The fear of yet another play that pitilessly exacerbates how miserable one can get was upon me. But very soon I saw this wasn’t the case. Slade’s text in Dan Pick’s director’s vision was portrayed in a simple, light and humorous way, packed with hilarious and endearing moments in the storytelling of a fairly dark subject.
Len and Jen, uncle and niece, hang out in a garage after the death of Len’s brother and Jen’s father. He was a famous chat-show host, accused of paedophilia who ultimately took his own life. We follow their journey of grief throughout six months and observe their coping strategies. They casually go through conversations and confessions, trying to understand the past and deal with the eminent future. Through this process they seal a bond over the ritual of merely hanging out in the garage drinking cans of cider.
There are many pertinent and difficult issues that arise from the circumstances of this play. One is reminded of the many sides and aspects within one single human being and how one can never truly know someone but only a version of them. All through the play, Len and Jen talk about how wonderful and generous the deceased were. Is it possible to fairly scale years of goodness and selflessness against condemning yet fleeting moments of weakness? Jen battles with all these questions as she finds out about these other unfamiliar sides of her beloved father.
Graham O’Mara embodies the chaotic brother who has done little more with his life other than drinking away his frustrations. He is actually a loving uncle who feels entitled to look after Jen and constantly makes appalling jokes and goes out of his way to make her laugh. O’Mara is outstanding in the delivery of this vulnerable yet charming character. Jennifer Clement as Jen is the perfect contrast in this picture. She has pretty much become a resentful young adult, disliking the cruel world around her and hoping for some escape. It is mostly at the end of the play that she opens up as her innocent belief of her father not being guilty is shattered. There is a transformation in Jen and this is beautifully captured by Clement.
Learning that things are never black and white is an epiphany that happens to all of us at some point in life, and this applies even when it comes to the hardest and most painful subjects. I am glad this new play adds something to the everlasting quest to unravel the incredible and mysterious nature of a human being. 4/5
Review written by Sofia Moura.
Cans is currently showing at Theatre 503 until Saturday 29th November. For more information on the production, visit here…