Kevin Jones is clearly on the way up in the Cardiff arts scene, but unfortunately Shed Man doesn’t prove to be his third triumph in nearly as many weeks.
‘Get It While It’s Hot’ is a brand new scheme by the Sherman Theatre to help emerging South Wales based theatre companies perform in a professional venue with the support of an award winning producing theatre. For the pretty reasonable price of £12.50, you as a punter get a pie, a pint and a play – a bargain for an evenings entertainment. First up is Clock Tower Theatre’s Shed Man, written by Kevin Jones. Having recently had plays produced at both AJ’s Coffe House (Izzy’s Manifestos) and The Other Room (Cardiff Boy), it’s clear that this writer is running on something of a hot streak. But how will his writing fare in the larger space of the Sherman studio?
On a hot bank holiday weekend, Brian (Benedict Hurley) decides to build a shed, a place to store his ‘stuff’ (whatever that might mean). The wrong side of 40, miserable in his job and feeling overwhelmed by life, Brian clearly feels like creating his own private oasis will help him cope. As Brian attempts to piece together his shed, he becomes increasingly distracted by his mother Pat (Siw Hughes) and his boss, the overbearing Mr Tatum (Joe Burke). Taunted for not being able to provide for his family, for being a disappointment and an embarrassment, Brian eventually reaches boiling point.
Utilising a set of green astro-turf, a classic looking white picket fence and a rather easily assembled shed, Shed Man starts life feeling like a naturalistic drama about a man on the edge of loosing it all, before beginning to stray into more surreal almost Pinter-esque territory. It transpires that not all of what occurs on stage is quite as it seems, yet this reveal feels a little jarring. While both Siw Hughes’ performance as Pat and Joe Burke’s performance as Mr Tatum are individually good, their different methods of playing the roles don’t mesh into the style of drama coherently. Burke’s character becomes a more and more outrageous caricature of what Brian imagines his boss to be, while Hughes’ character remains almost identical throughout.
As Brian struggles to cope, Shed Man’s real troubles appear. The play attempts to grapple with mental health issues, yet its portrayal of this is unfortunately a little ham-fisted. Rather than creating a nuanced portrayal of someone who lives with a mental health condition, the play relies on well-worn tropes and theatrical conventions in an attempt to portray a man teetering on the edge of a breakdown. Benedict Hurley has the overwhelming majority of the heavy lifting (both literally and emotionally) to do during Shed Man, and while he is generally convincing, it is a huge weight to carry when compared to the rest of the cast. Overall, the play sometimes feels like it’s running at 75%, when it has the potential with a little tweaking to truly fly. Kevin Jones is clearly on the way up in the Cardiff arts scene, but unfortunately Shed Man doesn’t prove to be his third triumph in nearly as many weeks.
Shed Man is running at the Sherman Theatre until 17h November 2018. For more information and tickets click here
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