Jamie Patterson (Will) and Charis Murray (Bean) give delightful performances in Cheer Up Slug by Tamsin Rees, the debut production for their company, Shot in the Dark Theatre, at the Bread and Roses Theatre, Clapham.
A well-matched pair giving two solid performances
Bean already has the tent up and is relaxing in the warmth of the autumn sun. The birds are singing and she is clearly enjoying the tranquillity of the countryside. Like Will, who has not yet arrived, Bean is looking forward to the start of their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme bronze expedition, though perhaps Will is somewhat more immersed in the spirit and the requirements of the event. With nerdy passion for the adventure and excessive deference to all he has been told by the teacher in charge in terms rules and requirements of the exercise, Will begins to impress upon Bean the importance of the event and what it means to him in terms of his CV. Bean, however, is less concerned about doing everything by the book and has a far more laissez-faire approach.
A third member of the group still hasn’t arrived. Dean is Will’s long-term friend who is now going out with Bean. Here the mystery sets in that will turn to complications and pose a major challenge to their understanding of each other and their relationships. The inevitable big moment, the twist in the otherwise simple story that just has to happen, eventually turns this piece of light theatre into a deeper and more profound story about trust, integrity and decency.
Bean is only sixteen so we assume Will to be the same. Murray gives Bean a self-assured simplicity and care-free persona but also carries off a radical transition when events in her relationship with Dean unfold, revealing her vulnerability, the expectations she has of friends and her inner strength to make changes to her friendships. Patterson is tall, slim and has long arms; proportions that seem oversized for the confines of the stage but which are ideal to portray a gangly adolescent whose body has developed far more fully than his social skills. He captures teenage awkwardness very well. Imagining that everyone should see the world as he does and failing to understand the sensitivities of others he falls victim to gauche outbursts and ultimately inappropriate behaviour.
Cheer Up Slug was Rees’ first full play and this early work provides a gentle start for this new company. It’s not a profound piece but under the skilful direction of Hannah McLeod, Patterson and Murray emerge as a well-matched pair giving two solid performances with the suggestion that they are ready and able to take on much bigger stuff as their company movies forward.