Review: Stuff, The Painkiller Project

Stuff is Bitter Pill Theatre’s contribution to the artistic collection of lockdown 2020 – the audio drama directed by Max Elton is part of The Painkiller Project and is now available on every podcasting platform.

Upon clicking the play button we are soon enough pulled into the world of two neighbours somewhere in England. The short play Stuff, written by Alison Carr, is told from the perspective of a woman (Sophie Thompson) living in a messy flat somewhere in England.  One fateful day her bathtub decides to give into the force of gravity and falls through the floor – her neighbour’s ceiling. Unexpectedly the two neighbours face each other for the first time due to the strange scenario that has just manifested in front of their eyes. Carr takes us into the lives of one woman with an affinity for collecting the Daily Mail newspapers and another one with a dark past that undeniably has had a peculiar effect on her.

The play is only five minutes long and therefore leaves the listener longing for more content and more importantly a more thorough introduction to the characters that we encounter. Carr has spun an intriguing plot around the two women, with loads of space to explore personalities that are certainly out of the norm and intriguing – even more so in times where every day feels the same as the day before. They are quirky characters that can only be hiding behind the façade of an old Victorian building or a council estate. But what exactly are their quirks and what does the woman upstairs mean when she says she can ‘tunnel down into used teabag caves’? 

Stuff paints a vivid image of how different peoples’ lives can be, how ‘too much stuff’ or ‘too little stuff’ can manifest itself. Without a doubt, we all are curious about the lives that people live around us.

Carr’s writing is very visual and evokes a lot of curiosity about the two women that we encounter in the audio play, however it seems that whatever storyline is actually hidden within the writing is only superficially brushed over. As a listener, I want to know more. This might have been intended by the author, with an outlook for Stuff part two, or Stuff live-on-stage but I am left wanting after listening to the play.

And that has nothing to do with Thompson’s delivery, for sure. She makes up for all the character information that we are missing, and her delivery reminds more of a Rosamunde Pilcher on a Sunday morning, rather than an enthralling semi-surrealistic play about minimalism and curiosity. I am looking forward to Carr’s forthcoming work and hope that the missing stuff in Stuff will one day be filled.

Stuff is now playing on every podcasting platform. For more information and tickets visit Bitter Pill Theatre’s website.