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.