B&L 2017

Sat 5th – Fri 18th August 2017

reviews

Charlie Stone

at 13:50 on 13th Aug 2017

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'Bummer and Lazarus' is a bravely original two-man show which deconstructs the most basic of meanings with a fantastic script. The tale of two dogs who find themselves stuck in a room without food, and who discuss the building blocks of human life and highlight its strangeness, is certainly an interesting and informative show. The performance is a refreshing mix of soliloquy and vibrant physical movement.

The restricted venue for this production, smaller than an average classroom size, is perhaps unfortunate, for the movement of the actors is restricted which does not allow them to fulfil their physical potential. They are, after all, acting as dogs, and though switching interestingly between human and dog-like positions, there is at times a certain bull-in-a-china-shop feeling. In spite of this, the two make intelligent use of a cupboard in the corner and the door to the room, and both actors successfully create the image of the enclosed space that they proclaim to be suffering in.

Where physically constrained, the play is verbally liberating. Concepts such as time and identity are brutally bent out of shape by the all-questioning Lazarus, whose inability to understand that in their situation of hunger the dogs cannot simply create ‘a different now’ is as eloquent as it is raw. Though some lines are delivered less convincingly than others, the show’s ability to deconstruct such simple things as the act of pointing, is fantastic to see.

The script’s strength at times outshines the acting performance. Separately, the two characters Bummer and Lazarus are skillful, Bummer the tired and knowledgeable leader; Lazarus the uninitiated, unknowing (knowledge and memory themselves are shown to be problematic) follower. Their dynamic, though, is occasionally strained, and their violent clashes can seem slightly overexaggerated. This is perhaps a symptom of the venue’s intimacy, and is in any case easy to forget because of the strength of some of Lazarus’ confused soliloquys.

These soliloquys help to create a philosophical undertone to the production, which at its centre is deeply questioning of fundamental meaning. It is certainly a great addition to the play’s significance to have the characters as dogs, and hints at the ancient Menippean satires which were often written for didactic purposes. Bummer and Lazarus, though, is not necessarily subversive: it is merely a playful game of language, and successfully entertains its audience.

The originality of this production ultimately provides both a strength and a slight weakness. It is a strength in its intelligence, but difficult to act with total confidence. However, Bummer and Lazarus is certainly worth watching for its inventiveness and thought-provoking theme.

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Jessica Lord

at 15:16 on 13th Aug 2017

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‘Bummer and Lazarus’ is a slightly confused and yet immensely loveable show, exactly like the animals which the actors very accurately portrayed.

‘Bummer and Lazarus’ is a two-man contemporary piece of theatre, in which the actors play Bummer and Lazarus, two surprisingly philosophical street dogs, desperately struggling to find a way out of the room in which they are trapped.

As the piece began, I was instantly impressed by the quality of the acting, as neither man needed any make-up, nor costume to enable the audience to understand his new canine classification. The physicality of the theatre was so impressive, and neither actor dropped out of character, even for a second. I am under the impression that Bummer was a surly, elderly, and hardened Pitbull or bulldog, whereas Lazarus reminded me of a lovable, clumsy, and dopey Labrador.

Although the energy was great, I did, at times, struggle with how intense the production was. It was over an hour of loudness, rushed movements, hectic stage direction and at times, slightly confused speech. It became a little tiring to watch, and I think the production and actors themselves would have benefitted from an occasional pause and a general decrease in pace. It just came across as slightly exhausting.

Also, the actual concept and plotline wasn’t very strong, which was a shame, since the quality of the acting was just on another level. Although a pair of philosophical dogs stuck in a small space is highly original, it wasn’t captivatingly written. It’s such a shame because, like I’ve said, the acting ability of these two men is simply astonishing. I cannot fault the way in which every line was spoken. There was no stumbling, no slurring, and no blatantly unplanned pauses. A lot of thought, hard work and effort had gone into carefully learning and speaking this script.

Despite this, this show did surprise me. Now that I have had time to think about it, it did make me laugh, think, and even made me a little sad at times. In spite of how evidentially low budget the set, costumes, and lighting was - the actors used the space phenomenally well. Incorporating a built-in wardrobe into a performance is something I’ve yet to see in any other production. It’s definitely a first. Simple desk lamps used for lighting, and black cardboard on the windows was a cheap choice, but a good one. It definitely did the job.

Essentially, I’d recommend this play for anyone who wants to see two men so impressively transform themselves into dogs. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m sure it won’t be matched by anything I’ll see in the future.

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