‘I think I hate people. I really do. And I think they know it.’
In this bleak, black solo piece, a young man hangs on the edge of forever and faces the reality of his past and future. Jelly Beans, written by Dan Pick, currently premiering at Theatre503, is riveting as it oscillates frantically between the past and the present, reality and social mask.
There is always the exception that proves the rule and Dan Pick is that exception: a writer who can also successfully direct his own work. Pick has delivered a blend of narrative, performance and design elements that achieves startling insights within a clear interpretation of contemporary society.
He is excellently supported by artistic director Stuart Slade and Associate director Kane Desborough.
Pick says: “We’re a generation raised on Disney, riddled with debt, anxiety and depression. We wished on stars as children but the happy endings we were promised seem more distant now than the farthest reaches of our universe. We live behind laptop screens, isolated by the very devices designed to connect us, fed to bursting on a diet rich in reality TV and pornography. It often feels as though we’re all facing our own individual crisis of purpose, and what happens when you realise the happily-ever-after might not be yours?”
Adam Harley is the performer bringing life into the sole character in the piece and he does so with great gusto, real skill. The beginning moments of the play are slightly stand-up comedy in feel but the shock value of the contents of two buckets at his feet, combined with the language and explicit content of the material, begin to disturb the audience.
It becomes rapidly apparent that this is not stand-up comedy after all, and the narrative ebbs and flows between the commonplace and the grotesque until there is real empathy for Harley’s beleaguered young man. Harley wrings every ounce of feeling from the story, often jumping between scenes in a heartbeat, never dropping the ball, as he clearly defines the character.
This clarity of time, space and mood is supported by the excellent lighting design of Tim Boyd who works the monochromatic palette with clever use of angles and shapes.
Jelly Beans is disturbing but it is an important and well written play about the modern times. It is only disturbing because it resonates with every person at some level.