Writer: Stuart Slade
Director: Dan Pick
Reviewer: Nichola Daunton
Taking recent new stories about historical sexual abuse and celebrity as a jumping off point, Stuart Slade has created a very funny and often moving play about what it means to be at the heart of the storm. Cans is the story of Jen and her disheveled and floundering Uncle Len. Left to fend for themselves after the suicide of Jen’s father, a former chat show host, national treasure and all round charitable good guy, the pair are forced to deal with his broken reputation, smashed after allegations of historic sexual abuse dating back over 25 years
Sitting in the garage of Jen’s family home, Jen and Len chew the fat, drown mice, fix old china ornaments and drink endless cans of Strongbow in a bid to make sense of their newly shattered lives. Both Graham O’Mara and Jennifer Clement are excellent as Len and Jen, mixing dry northern humour with vulnerability, and managing to portray the awkward gap between the generations, especially given Len’s absence for most of Jen’s life.
Slade’s script is bursting with funny moments, and both characters are well drawn and believably flawed. Lurching from emotional confession to lewd jokes and back again, the pair struggle as they try to unpick the circumstances surrounding the suicide and the validity of the allegations that led to it. A highly pertinent subject at the moment, Slade handles this dark and complex material with a good degree of care, exploring whether we should be held accountable for things we did half a lifetime ago, what makes a good person, and whether a veneer of goodness is ever enough to hide and atone for what’s inside.
As things take an increasingly dark turn and flatly denied allegations start to look blurrier, Jen and Len are both forced to re-examine their relationship with Jen’s father, as well as their relationship with each other and an increasingly hostile outside world. A smart and clever script, this two-hander is a great snapshot of two people caught up in the crisis created by the crumbling of a celebrity’s well crafted veneer.
Image: Tani Van Amse