Jelly Beans review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘grubby yet compelling’

Adam Harley in Dan Pick's Jelly Beans. Adam Harley in Dan Pick's Jelly Beans.

Dan Pick’s first full-length play, Jelly Beans, takes the form of an unsettling journey into a man’s mind.

It’s a grubby yet compelling one-man piece about a person slowly detaching himself from society. He’s stopped paying his bills. He seems to have lost some vital part of himself at some time in his life.

The unnamed protagonist goes shopping for PopTarts and ends up attacking a man on a mobility scooter “with a face like a thumb”, before having sex in a toilet cubicle. The writing is slick with spittle and spunk, reeking of rot and decay, glinting with cheap cocaine.

Adam Harley tells this story in a disconcertingly gentle way. He smiles a lot. There’s a sense of wonderment in his voice. He looks a little off-kilter with his trouser legs rolled up; normal but not normal.

There are two buckets at the font of the otherwise bare stage and his skin ends up smeared with red as the story becomes more violent. Eventually we discover the tragedy that has helped send him down this road, snuffing out some inner light.

As a director, Pick worked with Stuart Slade on the superb BU21, one of the new writing highlights of recent years. Jelly Beans is a more straightforward piece. It lacks a little in tension and texture but Pick writes ugliness and violence in interesting ways and Harley is an engaging performer of this story of damage and darkness.

Unsettling new writing providing an insight into a damaged mind