Theatre: Life of Stuff

In the same year as Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting was published (1993), Simon Donald’s The Life of Stuff won an Evening Standard award, and so began a trend for dramas set in Scotland revolving around taking drugs, getting pished and listening to banging dance music.

Marking the start of Theatre 503’s Second Look strand of work – giving plays from the last 30 years their first revival – it’s a piece that feels less fresh than it might once have done, but has a raw and visceral energy magnified by a superb cast whose performances sparkle with conviction.

A fudged assassination organised by gangster nightclub owner Dobie, played with charisma by Gregory Finnegan, kick-starts a frenetic plot of double-crossing, throwaway brutality and angry shouting by smashed people clutching bottles of spirits. This is a world where drinking from a glass is as inconceivable as sitting still to 2 Unlimited – one made even more intense by the theatre’s intimate seating, rearranged both sides of the stage.

Rhys Owen’s impressionable Leonard flits from downtrodden eczema sufferer to menacing thug, as Paula Masterton and Pamela Dwyer’s drugged-out Holly and Pamela teeter precariously on the rooftop. In the basement, Owen Whitelaw’s Fraser, an unlikely killer stripped of his clothes, develops an unusual friendship with Claire Dargo’s cynical, puking Janice.

Comedy and violence dance hand-in-hand towards a tense ending, whereupon an unexpected visitor with a sawn-off shotgun threatens to blow half the characters away.

Theatre 503, London. Until 04 May

Written forThe Stage

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