Theatre review: Jelly Beans

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: He smiles into the middle distance and sighs: “I know what a dead body looks like”. He has the face of an angel, but talks like he’s just stepped out of a sewer.

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

***

His teeth are white and his skin glowing, but he is rotting from the inside. Writer Dan Pick’s cold, cynical, sexually explicit language might be alienating if it wasn’t so well written, and performed with such unsettling charm by Adam Harley. You may not like the perspective of this wired narrator, who can barely conceal his contempt for the women he meets and views online, but it’s somehow appealing to watch him self-destruct. Maybe that’s because, in this play, we are all voyeurs of one kind or another.

What initially seems like a comedy turns into something darker. Through a fragmented story that slowly reveals itself, the man takes us through his squalid, superficially functioning life, occasionally reaching into a bucket of blood, within which lie the horrors behind his lack of empathy. This is a snapshot of male disconnection, rather than a wider exploration of the reasons behind it. The way genuine feeling is replaced by grim sex and violence is disturbing, and is made more so by the striking way it’s done.

Until 28 August. Today 3:15pm.