|Photo by Geoff Sirmai|
A late night show, this production of BULL, by British playwright, Mike Bartlett, is a 55 minute, black comic/tragedy of the possible horror of present day Darwinian office politics, where only the fittest will survive, pitched in a powerfully exaggerated manner. Three employees meet before an interview with the boss and the outrageous verbal cruelty of the bullying and humiliation of one of the three is a marvel to hear. Its audacity is breathtaking. Its acceptance as a present-day normality by/in the writing is a shocking cause for pause for a deep consideration of the kind of amoral world we may live in. Set in London, arguably, the contemporary Banking/Corporate heart of the present world, the glitter of this modern city 'verbaling' may not be compensation for the loss of the human virtues we watch disappear. Having to watch this unequal verbal gladiatorial 'sport' , and often enjoying it, does make one feel complicit in the 'mirror truth' of the world, shewn up here, with such uncompromising purposefulness by Mr Bartlett.
The three employees, Thomas (George Kemp), Isobel, (Romy Bartz) and Tony (Phillipe Klaus) are awaiting a meeting with their boss, Carter (Craig Ashley), for it to be determined which of them will lose their job. There is no ambiguity as to who will it be from the first beat of the play and so what we are invited to do is to watch, and ultimately indulge because of the 'humour', perhaps, the relentless witty put-downs employed by the characters for the psychological destruction of one of their own. It is a bit like watching an intense version of most of our high-rating reality television shows - from the cooking ones, to the weight loss, to the dating ones (all of them) - where the squirm of the 'guests' are the core pleasure of the humiliations. Like watching in the safety of one's seat a carnivore of the wild stalking and bringing down for the kill a fellow creature in bloody graphic detail.
Working on the set of the main show at the Old Fitz, THE ALIENS, under the direction of Rowan Greaves, these performers in BULL are confident with the dazzling, deliberate verbosities of Mr Bartlett, and give a stinging impersonation of human beings not too short of becoming poster-monsters of modern manners. Sitting in a theatre at 10pm requires a quality investment to grab and sustain one's interest. The writing and the performances in this production at the Old Fitz are that, and do. Riveting, and truly ugly.
Mike Bartlett was the author of COCK (seen at the Old Fitz earlier this year), and will be seen as part of the 2016 Sydney Theatre Company season with his Olivier Award winning play, KING CHARLES III, performed by the Almeida Company in the original Rupert Goold production as part of a world tour. Mr Bartlett, alongside Nick Payne (CONSTELLATIONS), Lucy Prebble (THE EFFECT) and Lucy Kirkwood (CHIMERICA), are four of the up-and-coming British writers in the theatre to catch when one can.
So, BULL ought to be caught while one can here at the Old Fitz. A coup of curating (accidental, or otherwise) at the Old Fitz to have two of the most interesting and better young, contemporary writers represented on their stage: Annie Baker and Mike Bartlett. Go. Go to both, perhaps.