The Bus

Tue 23rd – Mon 29th August 2011

reviews

Patrick Sykes

at 10:45 on 26th Aug 2011

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Perhaps Bulgarian humour doesn’t translate well. However much ‘the script has ben adapted to the UK and the Fringe format’, as the programme for this production of Stanislav Stratiev’s comedy announces, there is only so much you can do with bad, not to mention misogynistic, writing.

The Bus locks six characters in a bus leaving the suburbs for the city centre, and watches them squirm as they realise and attempt to rectify its outlandish deviations from the prescribed route. The characters themselves are known either by the names of their destinations (Okham, etc.) or by their prominent characteristics (Reasonable, Unreasonable, Man, Woman), yet the script does not capitalise on the intimate estrangement that this lack of basic identity in an enclosed an environment might allow, and many of the characters’ personalities remain undistinguished from one another, despite their supposedly binary opposite roles.

The couple - Man (Alin Balascan) and Woman (Kelley Williams) - are the obvious exception to this, but besides that they also had the best dynamic between any two of the characters, bickering over their benefits with a comic sense of urgency. Sadly the script later lets Williams down, and she becomes first the reluctant subject of misogynistic jokes, and later, in a radical and unconvincing transformation, the willing projection of them. It was disappointing to see a UK company wanting to put on such a straightforwardly offensive piece.

Sean Dupont, who plays the on-board Virtuoso cellist, also deserves credit, for his fantastically ridiculous speech on his own self-importance, in which he allows his nervous character both to find his voice and to dominate the stage for one brilliantly absurd minute.

One of the several things letting down these often good performances is the insensitive technical production. Some poles are erected at the back of the stage, to imply the kind you might see on a bus, but they are so poorly made that a simpler set, made up only of the bus’s chairs, might be better. Likewise, the sound and lighting - supposedly portraying the motions of the bus - move between aggressive braking sound effects accompanied by strobe light sequences, and absolute (but adequately lit) silence. The crew might consider either having a low engine sound rumble throughout, so that the extremes are not quite so unconvincing, or suggesting the stops and starts simply with better-directed movements of the actors, rather than sound effects. As it stands, they hedge between the two.

The best character in The Bus is the driver. Despite never coming on stage and not even being cast in the show, his words - reported only through the other characters - were the only ones I was interested to hear. This is an unhelpfully poor script, sustained by a few competent performances but let down by much more.

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David Knowles

at 13:05 on 26th Aug 2011

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The Bus is a play that tells the story of several passengers who get stuck on top a bus during a long journey. Incapable of acting like civil human beings, the occupants of the bus are consumed with fear and hysteria. It is, are we are told on the programme ‘hilarious’. The main problem with this show is that it is blatantly not ‘hilarious’. Chucklesome maybe, ‘raises a few smirks’ definitely, but hilarious? I did not think so. The jokes are simply too few and far between for enough comedic momentum to be created and maintained.

The acting itself was generally sound. S. Dupont particularly impressed with his performance as the ‘Virtuoso’ cellist. His mannerisms and voice were well developed and engaging to watch. His performance was sadly not matched by the other actors who failed to created interesting or watchable characters. J. Murphy did come close however with a well pitched Aldomitrovizi.

The technical aspect of the show was sadly lacking. Sound effects would come and go far too abruptly, destroying any illusion the actors may have created. The company had also decided against backing the entire play with a continual bus noise. Although I understand the reasoning, it made it doubly hard to believe that they actually were on a bus as the only confirmation of this were the stilted sounds every time the vehicle came to a stop.

Ultimately it was the writing that held this show back. The moments that are supposed to show the characters descent into lawlessness are unconvincingly held together by the rest of the script. There are also protracted periods when nothing really happens and the characters talk endlessly. I believe one line was ‘we are just talking not acting’: this really sums up the play. So, although there are some interesting aspects to this show I wouldn’t be rushing to the box office.

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