Theatre review - “Stuff” by My Beating Heart Theatre Company

Stuff by Mick Cooper

Stuff by Mick Cooper - Credit: Archant

“Stuff” by My Beating Heart Theatre Company – The Studio at The Lowry, Manchester – Saturday 4th July

Manchester based writer/actor Mick Cooper is the brain child behind My Beating Heart, a company established in 2013 to produce new and exciting pieces of theatre. No stranger to theatre, Mick wrote and produced “Stuff” which returns to the stage after it was first performed in 2014, a run during which it was selected as the Audience Favourite Show at the 24:7 Theatre Festival and also earned an award for best male for one of its stars, Karl Greenwood.

Stuff is a well written and very funny play portrayed against a slightly morose backdrop. Married couple Toby and Jess are unable to have children. Well, Toby is unable to have children and despite research, questions and alternative options, the future looks bleak. That is until Jess’ lifelong friend Xav shows up offering them his frozen sperm, or “stuff” as it is referred to giving the play its title. Xav only has 2 months to live.

Not your traditional storyline, Mick Cooper’s script focuses on the lighter, more humorous side of the obscure situation. The beauty of this is through the performances of the three cast members who all played their roles exceptionally well and did justice to a well-constructed script. The proficiency of Cooper’s work is that despite the dark underlying of the predicament the trio are faced with, he always kept the dialogue funny and light hearted, occasionally drifting into a dark corner, but then quickly returning with more witty one-liners. There was always an opportunity to take the humour of the script and completely turn it on its head, but it was an option that was averted, opting instead to keep the theme light.

The three characters in the script all have varying personalities which adds to the appeal of the story as they work off each other and the balance of the situation is portrayed through the performances. Peter Ash had the task of portraying the role of Toby, a man who is trying to stay positive despite his inabilities. The transition of his performance from his initial appearance to the revelation of his true feelings was wonderfully performed. Eve Burley plays the role of Jess, an organised individual with whom it is evident is trying to keep everything as positive as possible in a beautiful rendition of a struggling wife trying her best to understand and support her husband in order to secure their future together. Karl Greenwood physically bursts onto the stage like a hyperactive child in his portrayal of Xav and he never showed any signs of slowing down as his fast paced, hilarious rendition produced many of the story’s laugh-out-loud moments. The character of Xav is a wonderfully written role for someone who is always laughing and joking in order to divert attention away from the terminal illness he has been cursed with and it is easy to see why Karl Greenwood received all the accolades that he did for this role as he was simply superb.

The timing of the comedy and the delivery of the lines from all three cast members were executed beautifully allowing the flow of the script to run faultlessly. Director Alice Bartlett has worked wonders with a comical and entertaining script alongside a superb cast and she ensured the action was fast paced and the delivery of the lines and acting supported the script. Stand out moments are a-plenty in Mick Cooper’s script including the many different references that Xav has for his “stuff” and also the simple, but effective inclusion of a normal situation in which Jess asks Toby to remind her that a pizza is cooking in the oven and would be ready in five minutes. Toby forgets, as do the rest of the audience!

The expectation was that the gloomy truth behind the lives of our three characters would lead the story to an inevitable depressing conclusion, but instead we are left with a final laugh and a smile on our faces and that is all thanks to the excellent work of everyone involved in a truly wonderful production.

For more information regarding My Beating Heart you can visit the website at @RobGemmell1