How hard is it to say ‘I love you’ when you truly mean it? For Sam, it’s very hard. Growing up around strong, stoic, stereotypically ‘manly’ men has made it impossible for him to say ‘I love you’ to those who mean the most to him.
Heartfelt and emotional
Well timed, with performance dates coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week, Pulp tackles themes of toxic masculinity, grief and how a combination of the two can lead to depression and even suicidal feelings. The performance is heartfelt and emotional; some members of the audience were provoked to tears. But don’t write Pulp off as simply maudlin. The script is witty and warm, with many moments of levity to break up the heavier material. Sam is amiably portrayed by young actor Sam Lockwood and brings believable cheeky charm onto the stage.
Lockwood’s performance is certainly raw, but he’s sometimes too unrefined. Mimed movements to represent painting and decorating are a little clumsy; you can’t see exactly what they’re meant to be representing. He also stumbled over the script a few times, which meant that the pacing of his delivery was occasionally off making it hard to follow at some points. Perhaps it was just first night nerves; I’m certain Lockwood’s natural talent will become a more polished performance in time. Transitions between characters could also do with a rethink – maybe they could consider involving elements of puppetry or additional props to give the audience more visual cues.
Despite this, Sam’s emotion is vivid and tangible and the story is well told, without any gimmicks to distract from the central message. Its depiction of young men playing football, going to the gym and eating bacon sandwiches puts the kind of teenage boys I went to school with centre stage. Behind all that bravado and talk about Liverpool winning the Champions League, Pulp makes you wonder how many of those ordinary young men are trying to reach out about something deeper but failing. Through shows such as this, which present grief in such a personal and confessional manner, hopefully more young men will see that allowing themselves the space to grieve and express themselves is what real courage is all about.