The Say Can Blues

Kevin Cuffe
Lassfest
Lass of Gowrie, Manchester
(2011)

The Say Can Blues publicity image

This is Kevin Cuffe's second produced one act play since Slowly Vignettes, his well received debut piece in the 24:7 Theatre Festival in 2007. The Say Can Blues is a comedy drama where a loser character, Haydn Trowl, descends into fantasy in order to cope with the loss of his wife who leaves him very early on in the story. He is so obsessed with worrying about things which can go wrong in life that his wife Veronica needs to get away. He is then visited by another kind woman friend Monica whom he throws out when she spurns an advance.

This leads him into an extended fantasy sequence where he becomes a hard boiled American private detective very much in the vein of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe. He gets involved with two American femmes fatales, one looking for her husband and the other looking - or so it appears - for trouble. The play ends back in the real world when Haydn as the loser again kidnaps his wife and holds her hostage while he attempts to have a resolution which he did not earlier manage.

There are some lovely moments such as the first appearance of the Detective character which is simply realised by donning a raincoat and trilby and miming chain smoking.

A blues soundtrack is cleverly employed in between scenes and this adds to the film noir atmosphere they are clearly seeking to evoke. There is clever use of the minimal setting and lighting opportunities afforded by the small playing and audience area. Blue light for the fantasy sequence and red light when the kidnap happens.

Generally the shift between comedy and drama works very well. One of the best exchanges is when Haydn, making the advance to her, asks Monica, "What do men and women do when they are alone?" and she replies, "Argue". Also worthy of note is when Haydn tells Veronica he is a detective and she reminds him he works for British Gas. That produced the biggest laugh.

Co-directors Brainne Edge and Sam Al-Hamdani coax fine performances from all three players.

Daniel Thackeray as Haydn manages to navigate both roles of the loser and the detective with aplomb. He is appropriately neurotic as the one and super cool as the other.

Jane Leadbetter as Veronica is equally effective in her dual roles for both sequences and Karen West plays the seductive Miss M to perfection. She captures the nuances of her femme fatale particularly well with a husky sensuality.

"The Say Can Blues" runs at the Lass O Gowrie in Manchester until 15th July.

Reviewer: Andrew Edwards