Mick Cooper’s Stuff presents an increasingly common dilemma around contraception and IVF treatment. Toby and Jess are unable to conceive a child. Meanwhile, their zany friend Xav is dying of a brain tumour – as a parting ‘gift’ he has frozen some of his sperm and is willing to donate it to the couple..
You may expect what follows to be an angst-ridden piece delving deeply into these issues, but instead you end up with a divertingly amusing comedy.
The cast are pretty much spot on, Danny Ryder’s grumpy ex-soldier Toby is nicely pitched between wannabe patriarch and his wounded male pride at not being able to produce the goods. Eve Burley slips from lifelong friend of Xav to dutiful wife of Toby, but its Karl Greenwood steals the show as the manic Xav.
Its an impressive performance from Greenwood, who always delivers, but here he is like a clockwork toy let loose on the stage, bounding around. Xav the character might be irritating, but Greenwood’s performance does much to endear the character to you.
Cooper’s script tries to tackle the issues – a salient point is made about how all the support focuses on women rather than men. He also has some very comic moments weaved into the story – a particular moment where Xav asks Toby ‘What’s the problem?’ in 15 different languages is one witty moment in a script peppered with them.
Stuff’s problem though is with some of its more purile moments. I’m not a prude, but the constant slang variations on the word semen become very wearing after a time. Indeed, your tolerance for how many variations you can hear in an hour for the word semen will colour your reaction to the play. This said, Cooper is developing fast as a writer, and reins in some of the more potentially excessive moments to create a curiously addictive hour’s worth of entertainment.
Stuff seems to have been something of a sleeper hit in 24:7’s line up. It could have gone down a darker road, and in a festival with some very dark plays in; a little light relief is welcomed. And with a bit more pruning and refining, Stuff could yet go further. Worth seeing.
The Fiction Stroker gives Stuff three and a half strokes out of five:
Stuff continues its run until 24th July as part of 24:7 at New Century House, Manchester.