Whilst Stuff claims “shit stuff happens”, it is clear that the play itself, is anything other than shit. Set in a dreary community hall, it tells the story of a group of friends who, despite their differences, reluctantly come together to put on a surprise birthday party for their friend, Anita.
Stuff is a short yet endearing play and this production, by Sheffield People’s Theatre Young Company, had an impressive cast of talented, young actors. There were no nerves in sight and they all managed to command the respect of the audience. From start to end, they all brought their characters into their own rights. Of particular mention, was the geeky-yet-loveable character of Vinny whose multiple layers were well portrayed.
One aspect of the play which shone was the relationship between AJ and Matt. Two openly gay characters, the play subverted and addressed any expectations the audience may have. It was brilliant to see characters, both completely different, who are comfortable in their sexuality, but not defined to a one-dimensional portrayal by it. Despite AJ wanting to seek a relationship with Matt, it is great the play breaks the stereotype that the only two gay characters should end up together. Instead, the play gives attention to the other nuances of their friendship and emphasises how they can relate to each other without a romantic relationship.
The direction was excellent with every part of the stage successfully utilised – it felt like you were actually in the community hall. The brief interludes of music and dancing brought a creative element to the play without it feeling too musical or ridiculous.
At the end, the audience becomes part of the play as the ‘other invited guests’ to the party and encouraged to sing along to the birthday song one of the characters had written. Breaking the fourth wall created a warm and enjoyable end, defining the simplistic nature of the play’s plot is its strongpoint. The characters told a warm and endearing story which left the audience smiling. A really ensemble piece and a classic example of how Sheffield Theatres excel at involving the community in its plays.
Stuff is a play by Tom Wells.
Image Credit: National Theatre