12 May 2016

Jelly Beans at Theatre503 addressed adult themes violently and intelligently


It does not take much to get me to see something at Theatre503 and this time it was the simple statement that Jelly Beans was by the creative team behind BU21 and Cans, both of which I saw at Theatre503 and both of which I loved. To be specific, ir was written by Dan Pick who had directed both of those shows.

Unusually it was only on for a week which gave me limited options on when to see it and I settled for a Thursday evening even though I was at home that day and had something to do locally in the afternoon. That meant a prompt tea before catching a 65 to Richmond and a train to Clapham Junction. The travel worked exceptionally well and I got to the theatre about half an hour before the show started, plenty of time for a pint of Landlord from the Latchmere before heading upstairs to the theatre.

The stage was refreshingly bare and this was my view from the middle of the front row which cost me a parsimonious £12.

Like Portia the week before, this was a one person show that explored some pretty dark places. This time it was a troubled young man, played by Adam Harley. The tale was told in the first person and I do not recall being told the character's name and there is none listed on the theatre's website.

We could tell immediately that he was troubled because of the way he looked, the way he spoke and the things that he told us about his lifestyle and recent events. This was an 18+ performance so I cannot repeat much of what he said.

In talking to us, he switched topics and periods rapidly as his fractured mind made connections. As his story jumped around we learned some things about his family, girlfriends, school days and thoughts. As the story jumped, Adam fidgeted with his clothes and played with the chair in a slightly maniacal way, because he was slightly maniacal. Just how maniacal he was became obvious when he went to the supermarket to buy Pop-Tarts and ended up having a confrontation with a large man in a mobility scooter. Things got really dark after that.

There was strong violence (but I think I escaped the blood, that is always a danger with a front row seat) then there was more strong sex. Neither was gratuitous or prurient and instead were a natural, if extreme, extension of the drama that had gone before. It was a shocking story that shocked mightily while giving us a deep look inside one troubled mind. It almost seems wrong to describe it as entertaining despite being entertained by it.

Jelly Beans was very much in the usual Theatre503 mold of being provocative, dramatic and intelligent. I use the word "intelligent" a lot when talking about plays at Theatre503 and that is deliberate on my part and, I am sure, on theirs. 

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