Saturday, November 08, 2014

Turning a blind eye and other emotionless states: Cans @theatre503

Taking the fallout of Operation Yewtree and turning it into a comedy drama seems like a challenging task, but Cans manages to inject some humanity into the subject matter, even if the results are a bit predictable (and a tad overlong).

Stuart Slade's debut play is a two-hander set in the garage of Jen's family home with her uncle Len. Jen's dad was a  media personality, charity fundraiser and national treasure. But a year ago he was arrested for sexual offences against young men and women, and now he is dead. Len is trying to help her get over it and the two of them seek refuge in the garage of her home, drowning mice, sharing secrets and talking crap.

Jen is trying to come to terms with the allegations, her father's suicide and getting spat at in supermarkets. Surely it was just the last year of his life that was the nightmare. But amongst the banter and crap talk there is a slow realisation that all was not as it seemed with their lives. People knew some things, but nobody ever said anything. Or wanted to say anything.

The topicality of the piece and the constant humour that comes through, particularly in Len's character (played by Graham O'Mara) makes this piece engaging.

But it does seem to miss a sense of drama or at least how through the passage of time everything that Jen assumed about her life changes. The fallout from the Operation Yewtree investigation has at times touched on the families as victims being coerced and duped. While which has served as an inspiration for the piece, I struggled to sense the characters emotions about what happened. Guilt, shame, anger or denial. It was hard to tell what they were thinking as they just grabbed another can of cider or cracked another random joke.

According to its Kickstarter page (which helped fund the terrific set of a garage complete with dusty tools, gold records and other relics from the 80s), the piece started as a shorter work entitled "Of Mice and Len".

 The piece was workshopped with O'Mara and Jennifer Clement (who plays Jen) and both contributed to the works development. There are some great lines and some funny moments but in its current form it still feels like it could evolve into some better.

Although the subject matter is quite toxic. Operation Yewtree has had 18 arrests to date. There are no doubt more stories about the darker side of British society that are yet to be told. Whether any would make a night out at the theatre is another matter.

Cans is at Theatre 503 in Battersea until 29 November.

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Photo credits: Production photos by Tani Van Amse