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The Life of Stuff

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Intense. Hilarious. Loud. Vicarious. These are all words you could use to describe The Life Of Stuff, currently playing in traverse at Theatre 503. Written by Simon Donald in the early ‘90s, this ode to a city, a situation, a time and a place is a blastingly furious piece, full of drugs, drama, drink and delirium. It’s mad, it’s messy and it’s a pleasure to sit through.

From the moment drug dealer Alex Sneddon (Ben Adams) steps on stage, boa constrictor round his neck, menace and rage exuding from every pore of his being, you know you’re in for a fabulous ride - albeit with some unexpected twists and turns. From Claire Dargo's trapped, desperate Janice to the painfully vulnerable Fraser (Owen Whitelaw, excellent), who only really wants to leave for Ibiza with 'best pal' Raymond, Donald's characters are, on the whole, expertly etched and emotionally nuanced.

Paula Masterton is captivating as woozily ‘unemployable’ Holly, who drifts through life on a cushion of drink and drugs, unconcerned by much ("they're not eyeballs, they're wine gums"), while Pamela Dwyer's spot-on comic timing and unexpected choices as raucous, relentless Evelyn mark her out as one to watch. But Cameron Jack's Arbogast is the top turn of the night, a potent mixture of menace and intellect, able to switch from violent henchman to soft, sweet Sinatra enthusiast in a split second. It’s to Jack’s credit that Arbogast is quite so likeable despite his despicable nature - whether he’s spouting vitriolic phrases or dancing to "Ol’ Blue Eyes", you can’t help but want more.

There’s great lighting and clever sound and music choices from Johanna Town and Simon Slater, while movement director Robin Guiver has created some truly vicious fights and frenetic dances (Fraser and Janice’s pas de deux is a particular highlight). Design by James Perkins sets the scene nicely while still leaving plenty to the imagination (unlike Whitelaw’s underwear – poor actor).

Two and half hours whip by with nary a backwards glance. Don’t miss it.

-Miriam Zendle