"The Millennial kids are alright!"
by Cameron Dunham for remotegoat on 15/03/19

Millennials are a pain, right? Too sensitive, too self-involved and definitely, just, basically, I mean, like, literally too fragile to function in the real world, yeah?

With this firmly in mind, Tom Wells’ play “Stuff”, currently showing at Stockwell Playhouse, does its darndest to win over the Millennial sceptics out there with an ensemble cast of characters who represent this most maligned of generations at their very best. And worst.

The simple story involves a group of mid-teens waiting for their recently bereaved friend to arrive for a surprise birthday party. In a kind of updating of “Waiting for Godot”, the friend never arrives and so we are left with each member of the group having their moment in the spotlight as the one act play unwinds. Director Marcus Marsh sensibly keeps the set sparse and lets his cast do most of the heavy lifting. There’s Vinny, love-lorn and well-intentioned; Magda, the budding singer song writer; Matt and AJ, both gay but not together; and Dani, moody and mobile phone obsessed. It’s a credit to Wells’ writing that we get a real sense of the complex issues each character faces during such a short running time.

This young cast is a treat to behold. Thomas King as Matt manages to draw your attention before he’s even spoken a word. There’s a pensive anxiety to his fussy manner that is quite captivating. Dario Ebuwa, as AJ, shifts the entertainment up a gear with his delayed arrival and his raw, comedic timing brought many unscripted laughs. Ania Lee, as Magda, brings the show its own theme song, and tees the play up for a shamelessly uplifting finale. Lily Staplehurst is also excellent as Dani: spikey as a cactus and friendly as a hand grenade but, of course, there’s a reason for all of that…

The show’s heart seems to lie in a two hander between Matt and AJ. They settle the petty issue of AJ’s crush on Matt with a maturity that most adults lack and King gives us a nice monologue about the similarities between pandas and being gay. It’s as light-hearted as it sounds and could be trite in the hands of a lesser actor but King imbues it with a wide-eyed innocence and it’s the moment where the clouds seem to lift for his character.

Tom Wells has described “Stuff” as a “radiator”, meaning that he wants his audience to leave with a sense of warmth. The final sing along tune accomplishes this with an over-arching theme of togetherness. Yes, it says, life can be full of bad stuff but there’s good stuff as well. It leaves the thought that the much lambasted generation Millennial will actually be creating the “real world” that they have to function in and if that is a world that values friendship, feelings and respects diversity, maybe they’re not such a bad lot after all. Suck that up, Generation X!

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