EFR - Reviews of Bucket Men

Bucket Men

Wed 1st – Sat 18th August 2018

reviews

Martha Crass

at 23:29 on 6th Aug 2018

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‘We need to do something about that potted plant’, remarks one of the two men clad in white shirts and overalls. They sit at a white table on white chairs, to the right of a white sheet-clad bathtub. The potted plant in question is a painting; in this tiny, stifling room, are these men aware that the potted plant isn’t real? But then the moment diffuses, and is replaced with dialogue which is surreal in an entirely different way.

‘Bucket Men’ follows the working lives of two men who, every day, play out the same conversation and the same actions in the same order. As one of them advises: ‘just stick to the script and it’ll all work out eventually’. However, this is not mundanity of the usual sort, and the men’s work consists of some rather odd, and gruesome, tasks, along with with their daily rituals of tea-making (cold and black, thanks to the perpetually broken kettle and absence of milk) and sandwich-eating (only the infamous Percy’s Pâté for these two, of course!).

Every day one of the men is late to work, and every day the other chastises him for it. While this snapshot of an insular, dystopian world is perpetuated by these men, there are moments of self-awareness from the pair. The man who is always late decides that he will sidestep this problem by sleeping at work one night, but in doing so prompts his partner to become furiously angry at the change. He then forces them to re-enact the same routine as always. Fantasy and reality overlap as one man tells a different version of the same story every day to explain why he is late, his stories becoming increasingly overblown and implausible as he tells them.

Our two protagonists are each compelling, and have no trouble in engaging the audience; moreover, this is clearly a well-rehearsed production. My only real qualm comes with the ending, which feels abrupt and unexplained. Overall, it feels as though this could be an abridged version of a much longer play, and it would have benefited from being performed in full

There are times when ‘Bucket Men’ seems to reach at something brilliant, and times where this is achieved; there is a bleakly terrible scene nearer the end where the hostage of the two men (whose mild torture is part of their daily routine) is removed, and replaced with another in a slightly predictable, but nonetheless jarring, twist. The relentless cycle of their routine is comedic, and while it often seems fairly clear what the writers are trying to say with this, sometimes it lurches further into the absurd than can be sustained by the plot. This is not to say that standalone lines are out of place. The hysterical ‘fucking swans - too much neck, that’s their problem!’ got a good laugh.

‘Bucket Men’ is disturbing, dark, silly and thought-provoking. While there were more moments of obfuscation than clarity, and I came away with many unanswered questions, it was certainly a confident, impressive production.

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Molly Stock-Duerdoth

at 10:11 on 7th Aug 2018

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In an uncomfortably warm and frankly bad-smelling room, the two nameless protagonists of Fear No Colour’s ‘Bucket Men’ enact what appears at first to be a fairly ordinary, if slightly tense, workplace discussion. It’s entertaining, and a little confusing. Then the same discussion is repeated, several times, with rapidly accelerating tension. What starts as an unusual job and strained conversation turns out to be a series of bizarre ritualistic tasks involving fabricating fantastical justifications for lateness, pouring water on a half-conscious body, and pretending to drink cups of tea they cannot make because the kettle is broken and there is no milk.

The stress they are evidently under to maintain this routine – any attempt to break it, even when one of the characters is forced to hold both sides of the conversation, results in a frenzy of panic – manifests excellently, and both performers are utterly convincing as men pushed to the limit by forces they cannot control. One becomes increasingly manic while the other remains relatively calm aside from occasional outbursts of almost frightening anger. Disturbing details are gradually revealed; one of the men can’t remember the names of his children, and both inexplicably hate postmen.

A lot of this show is inexplicable; we’re never certain of the purpose of the pair’s job, of why following these exact lines and actions is so imperative, or of any details about the world which requires them to behave in this way. Initially, the uncertainty is effective, but it is frustrating when the play ends without any of the questions answered. While absurdism obviously demands strangeness, the rituals are so numerous and complex that they begin to become messy without explanation of what drives them. The concept seems overly nuanced, but simultaneously clumsy – some of the themes and images are overdone while others seem under-explored.

Nevertheless, 'Bucket Men' is enormously enjoyable. The strength and masterful building of the tension makes this an utterly immersive experience. The script and its delivery are beautifully fluid, and the cast maintain startlingly intense performances throughout. Although the outside circumstances are convoluted and unexplained, the plot itself is tightly woven and constantly surprising. Albeit a little lost in complex ideas, ‘Bucket Men’ has some elements of excellent surrealist theatre, and makes for a hugely entertaining, immersive, and at times even frightening watch.

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