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May Contain Nuts

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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 Hamlet”.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 sincerity.

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 undertones.

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.

- James Magniac


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