Theatre, Fringe
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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Exploring the aftermath of a chat-show host’s fall from grace following sex-abuse allegations, ‘Cans’ is nothing if not topical.

The household name has left daughter Jen (Jennifer Clement) and brother Len (Graham O’Mara) in his wake. Grieving and frustrated, they sit in her dead dad’s garage drinking Strongbow after Strongbow, talking about their ambiguous past, difficult present and the ‘national treasure’ who left them behind.

The play is set over five months, each new scene beginning with the characteristic flickering of garage lights. Jen and Len drown mice, mend ornaments, sort clothes, pack up the house; each scene has metaphorical undertones to match the pair’s states of mind and tender, deepening relationship.

Slowly, tantalisingly, the ugly truth about Jen’s father rises to the surface. It doesn’t sound like a laugh-a-minute set-up, but ‘Cans’ really is funny. Taking this dark subject matter, Stuart Slade’s debut play mixes the tragic and the comic with witty originality.
O’Mara shines throughout Dan Pick’s production as the dishevelled, slightly inappropriate uncle – his comic timing is spot on and he’s particularly captivating when panting around the stage, slurring his words after one cider too many. Clement brings an emotional sensitivity to her role, adding depth to the angst-ridden teenager as she struggles to comprehend who her father was while dealing with tormenting peers.

It’s a testament to Slade’s skill that he deals with such a heavy and current issue humorously without turning it into a big joke. The play is a touching exploration of what it means to be a good person, the effects of negative public opinion at a personal level and the indescribable pain of losing a loved one – ‘like someone’s pushing a fucking tree trunk through my chest’, as Len poignantly puts it in the final scene.

‘Cans’ holds up a mirror to modern times; the reflection’s difficult to look at – but at least it makes you think.



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