The Lowry, Salford – 4 July 2015
Etcetera Theatre, London for Camden Fringe Festival – 20-23 August 2015
Toby and Jess are a successful young couple, deeply in love with each other and with the world at their feet, they appear to have everything. Well, almost everything. The couple really want to start a family of their own; however, early on in the play, it is established Toby is unable to father a child.
One night their zany, charismatic and terminally ill friend Xav arranges to visit and offers the couple first refusal on his ‘stuff’, which he has had frozen earlier in the day. This sounds like it could be quite a distressing storyline, doesn’t it? Fortunately for us, witty writer Mick Cooper approaches this potentially difficult scenario with insight, a good dollop of humour and likeable, well-rounded characters.
Cooper’s script is fully realised by director Alice Bartlett and the wonderful cast of three. Peter Ash gives a fantastic performance as Toby; having just recently returned from army service, he looks bewildered at times, deeply in love with Jess and happy to comply with her fertility spreadsheets and ovulation charts. Eve Burley, as Jess, puts in a subtle and highly believable performance – playing the supportive partner to Toby and life-long friend to Xav.
Xav, exceptionally well acted by Karl Greenwood sweeps into Jess and Toby’s living room and scoops them both along with his humour and craziness. Despite being diagnosed with a brain tumour and the possibility of only having months to live, he is a perceptive character – giving and positive and also the main source of humour in the play.
It is no wonder that Stuff won the hearts of its audiences when it was first performed in 2014 at Manchester 24:7 Theatre Festival. Winning the Audience Favourite accolade, the beautifully balanced script is littered with familiar cultural references and a fair helping of hilarious synonyms for the ‘stuff’ that Xav wants to give to the couple. The Northern crowd chortle when Xav describes the process of IVF using tubs of humous, taramasalata and a bread stick. Perhaps most importantly, the humour is balanced by a deeper insight into the position of the three characters. Cooper has fine tuned the subtle details of the script – our attention is drawn to Toby when he reveals his feelings around all of the infertility leaflets being pink and when we witness Xav and Toby thrashing out their differences, it is evident that this is a play driven by friendship.
STUFF is being performed at The Etcetera Theatre in Camden as part of the Camden Fringe Festival from 20th to 23rd August 2015.
You can visit My Beating Heart Theatre Company website for more information.