EFR - Reviews of Bazaar And Rummage

Bazaar And Rummage

Fri 1st – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

Oliver Collard

at 09:33 on 14th Aug 2014

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Three agoraphobic women throw a jumble sale with the help of their social workers in an attempt to confront their fear of the world outside and overcome the isolation imposed by their condition. What’s keeping them inside? From the very start, in Bazaar and Rummage you quickly realise that something is trying to get out. Yet in a production which strikes a tender balance between humour and pathos, this quickly opens out into a motif with multiple layers, exerting a powerful sway over its audience.

As you may guess from the Buggles and Clash songs that greet your entrance to the venue, the eighties is written all over this play; the boxy clothes, Kat’s idolization of Barry Manilow, talk of the novelty of colour television and Gwenda’s parodically Thatcheresque pronunciations on society all paint it a glossy surface.

Even through the first part of the play, which capitalises on the apparent tensions and divides between the women, a warmth somehow seems to emanate through the dialogue. If the characters are willing to vetch at one another, there is a tacit consent about not going too far or at least, a quick retraction if their fragile consensus is breached.

Emily Dance gives a hilarious and endearing portrayal of the tactlessly naïve Kat, who sometimes tells it just a bit too much like it actually is, upsetting most of the others in the process. Margaret (Bea Svistunenko) has some fantastic dialogue, including some toilet humour which turns to feminist gold when uttered in the mildly repressive domestic context of the play: ‘daddies at work, mummies at home’ as social worker Gwenda (Laura Waldren) puts it.

There is always a hazard that you might be laughing at the characters for eccentricities which might be linked to their mental illness. This is skilfully allayed by the depth of human drama lurking under the first half’s deflective comedy. In a preponderance of fellow feeling, the audience falls respectfully silent as the previously gruff and foul-mouthed Margaret talks about how she was raped, and the characters try to bring problems to the surface, where they can potentially be dealt with.

A sharp shift from humour to pathos is beautifully pulled off by a cast, who are clearly very comfortable with each other, showcasing their singing talents in a musical number which quickly conveys the frenzy of the jumble sale, the mad flux of the changing outside world which strikes fear into the hearts of these characters.

Variously funny and intense, Bazaar and Rummage delivers a straightforward and uplifting message: the importance of sticking together. As the characters bravely venture into the outside world together, we sincerely hope that they are leaving the detritus of their old lives behind them.

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Rob Collins

at 21:12 on 14th Aug 2014

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Bazarre and Rummage follows the lives of three agoraphobic women and their two councilors over the course of a day as they set up for a jumble sale. From the opening of the play we are plunged into a word of neurosis and eccentricity. Yet this plot is really secondary to a much deeper examination of what it is to be neurotic and what drives these characters' conditions.

The opening of the show sets the tone for what is a very enjoyable hour. Laura Waldren gives a very assured performance as Gwenda, effortlessly working in the character’s issues and eccentricities. This plays very well against the more naïve character of Felicity. There is a darkly comic feel to much of the show, yet it never feels mocking or malicious towards the characters and though some of the comedy falls a little flat, especially when teed up too obviously by the cast, it generally works well. We are gradually introduced to the three agraphobes, each bringing their own unique subtleties and quirks, and there is a real depth to all of the performances. Emily Dance’s Kat is understated and deadpan, yet brilliantly tactless and frank leading to some hilarious exchanges with the other women, a stand out moment being her summary of her sex life (“I’d rather do a jigsaw.”)

There is plenty of pace to the show, although it never feels rushed, and this is helped by an excellent performance from Bea Svistunenko as the cheekily rude Margaret. The separation of the pre and post sale scenes is marked by a bizarre, yet endearing song which feels just a little out of place.

As we work closer to the root of the characters' problems more layers emerge and there are some interesting socio-political comments to be found as Gwenda and Felicity face off from opposite sides of the political spectrum. The middle section of the play loses some momentum but this was rescued by some extremely moving testimonies from the characters as we find out the cause of their condition. The audience feels a genuine connection with all of them, and as the women gather up their belongings and exit the stage, there is a feeling of hope and that they may be one step closer to freeing themselves of their condition.

Overall this is an assured piece of theater that is brilliantly acted and curiously uplifting.

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