Jelly Beans

Jelly Beans is a really, really horrible play. A new work by Dan Pick, the piece describes one day in the life of an unnamed man in Port Glasgow. Wasting time, money and relationships, the man is suffering from severe alienation. He spends his days alone in a webcam pornography-fuelled haze of self-loathing, thinking about his deteriorating relationship with (ex)girlfriend Jess. Then one day – on his birthday, no less – a chance encounter upends his gross routines, and sees the man rampaging through memory and the streets of Port Glasgow in a hallucinatory attempt to outrun his reality. Oozing bodily fluids (and solids) at every pore, this monologue is a visceral look at one man’s psychosis.

A disturbed and disturbing portrayal of one man’s violent breakdown

On the surface, Pick’s script is disgusting; it is full of shock humour, violence, misogyny and traumatic backstories. However, underneath this squalid exterior, the interior is exactly the same – but also delicately structured, capable of occasional profundity, and just straight-up sad. This is a detailed character study. However, there are times when Pick appears to write such blunt material simply for the sake of it, with the bleak and grim bits seeming self-indulgent and unjustified, especially in comparison to the text’s more tender moments. In some passages of the play – the conversation following a hook-up in a pub toilet being one such instance – you cannot help but wonder what the point of portraying such hurt is. But having said this, there is a lot going on in the writing, more than a mere concoction of set pieces designed to make you squirm.

Notwithstanding the intermittent textual problems, Adam Harley gives an outstanding solo performance as this character who is by turns awkward, charming and outright nasty. Harley flicks with impeccable timing between present reality and flashback, tempering his delivery with just the right levels of bitterness, exasperation, fatalism and, most unnervingly, a childlike innocence. Flashing a manic grin and fixing audience members with unrelenting, steady eye contact, he pitches his character somewhere between James Acaster and Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Testament to this, the audience is mesmerised throughout and reward Harley with applause long after he has left the theatre.

Laced throughout with pitch-black comedy, Jelly Beans is a disturbed and disturbing portrayal of one man’s violent breakdown.

Reviews by Sam Fulton

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Imagine if Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag was a guy – a violently tender-hearted, radically alienated, sweetheart psychopath of a guy... Jelly Beans tells first-hand the story of a momentous day in the life of a young Port Glasgow man teetering on the brink of self-destruction. As his drab existence is shattered by a violent attack and an escapist binge which sees him running from painful memories and present dangers, can a self-proclaimed hero save himself from oblivion? Written by Dan Pick (Shortlist: BBC Writersroom) Jelly Beans follows Kuleshov's record-breaking West End hit BU21 at Trafalgar Studios.