May Contain Nuts is a collection of seven short one-act plays, two written by
Mike Folie and five by David Ives, that cover surreal scenarios ranging from
being stuck in “a Phildelphia”, a black hole where everything you ask for the
opposite happens, to Words Words Words in which apes attempt to write “a
Folie and Ives’s plays are witty, cool and very clever. But they are also very hard to perform
well. The difficulty lies in achieving a balance between the comedic and tragic
potential of their work.
The seven actors that make up PinchOuch! Productions are certainly an
adept bunch at hitting the punch lines and under Niki Flacks’s direction create
an infectious energy that carries the evening swiftly along. But the production too often falls short of
the mark at those moments when the texts demand a snap into sentiment and
Words Words Words is an indicative example. The play is about three
apes that are being experimented on by a never-seen Dr Rosenbaum, who believes
that if they keep typing randomly for eternity they will eventually produce
“a Hamlet”. Towards the play’s end one of the apes - named Swift after the
satirist - enacts the graveyard scene in Hamlet. The rest of the scene can be played either comically or
tragically, the latter being more challenging due to the sudden change of tone
required. Most productions therefore opt to play it with humour and this
one does exactly that.
The result however is a loss of intensity and focus.
Words Words Words is
concerned, among other things, with the multitude of ways anti-authoritarian
figures can be represented – embodied in the play by the ape named Swift – but
by focusing on the humour the company leave unexplored these thought-provoking
The comedy at times smothers each of plays’ subtleties and
thematic concerns. The most
frustrating is A Universal Language, as despite Jason
Denver’s excellent performance as Don, the moment of his revelation fails to
capture the vulnerability and isolation of the characters. It is a balance
that’s incredibly hard but one that is nevertheless necessary for the full
impact of both Ives and Folie’s writing is to be realised.