Review: Bull by Mike Bartlett at Sheffield Studio (a Sheffield Theatres production)

From left: Adam James as Tony, Eleanor Matsuura as Isobel and Sam Troughton as Thomas. Photo Robert Day.

From left: Adam James as Tony, Eleanor Matsuura as Isobel and Sam Troughton as Thomas. Photo Robert Day.

Towards the end of Mike Bartlett’s Bull*, as performed at the Crucible Studio under the direction of Clare Lizzimore, I looked across the stage at members of the audience sitting opposite me: a woman was watching with her mouth open and a horrified expression. A man had his head slightly bowed, like he wished not to see but not able to stop himself. All with good reason: the last ten minutes of the play are as brutal and horrifying as anything I have seen on stage. And all that, without a drop of blood or physical violence.

But let’s get back to the beginning: as the back page of the text points out “Two jobs. Three candidates. This would be a really bad time to have a stain on your shirt”. Or maybe, this would be a bad time to imagine you have a stain on your shirt. Tony, Isobel and Thomas are waiting for a meeting with their boss. One of them will get fired. No decisions made yet but one of them doesn’t stand a chance. There is a horrifying inevitability to the proceedings.

Mike Bartlett’s language is disturbingly familiar. For anyone steeped in office politics, it rings true. Small mind games easily escalate. The text is also loaded with cultural values: efficiency, presentation, class, culling, Darwinian theories. What happens on stage is the concentrated version of every day office life. In small increments, it feels stressful. In this snapshot, it feels unbearable. And the responsibility lies with everyone. Continue reading

Review: The Full Monty, a play by Simon Beaufoy at the Lyceum (a Sheffield Theatres production)

thefullmontyHow do you review a play like The Full Monty? Does it live in the shadow of the much loved film? Does it deliver against fond memories as well as a stand alone piece of theatre? Fortunately, the Sheffield Theatres production, as directed by Daniel Evans, doesn’t present such dilemmas: you will be swept away whether you have seen the film or not.

The production starts with a bang. Almost literally. First scene at the disused factory employs a number of pyrotechnics, and while they don’t set the tone for the rest of the production, they make a statement: films might have the advantage of vast vistas and quick succession of scenes, but it’s hard to match the excitement of slightly dangerous risque things happening live (including the full monty).

Simon Beaufoy, writing the play from his own script, sticks closely to the story he invented for the film. He knows to keep the best lines and best set ups (the scene at the dole queue is every bit as breathtaking and iconic) but he has more room to expand on some themes. Continue reading

Review: Straight, by DC Moore, at the Bush Theatre

Henry Pettigrew as Lewis and Philip McGinley as Waldorf. Photo Robert Day

Henry Pettigrew as Lewis and Philip McGinley as Waldorf. Photo Robert Day

In the past week I saw two plays by two young writers, both plays dealing with same sex relationships, both writers using initials as their first name. But as they say, the similarities end here. DC Moore’s Straight, adapted from a film and produced by Sheffield Theatres in association with the Bush theatre, is at first glance modest in its ambition. Recounting the relationship between a young couple and the impact an old friend’s visit has in their lives, it focuses on small gestures, tiny details and the natural joyful interactions between people. By getting the details right, it reveals a world where people reach out for intimacy, meaning, tenderness and hope. In many ways, this is the biggest ambition of all.

The first, and probably most important, thing to be said about the play: it’s very funny. Continue reading