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Brighton Festival 2018

Bus Boy

Rorschach Beast

Genre: Contemporary, Drama, Fringe Theatre, International, Theatre

Venue: The Warren: The Blockhouse


Low Down

A touching and troubling look at the consequences of our own personal history clashing with our present day realities. What happens when our personal demons clash with our hopes and dreams?


“The gladdest moment in human life, methinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

There is a certain camaraderie among travelers. A shared experience of seeing the world from new perspectives. An openness to whatever may lie ahead tempered by a growing knowledge of what’s gone before. It’s hard to quantify this feeling but once you have been bitten by the travel bug it takes hold of you and won’t let go. Whichever mode of transport you choose, whether it is plane, train, bus, or bike, there is strange compulsion not only to seek out places you’ve never been but also to revisit the places that have affected and influenced your life the most. It’s an interesting and sometimes confounding juxtaposition and one which we see played out in Rorschach Beast’s production.

“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna Quindlen

Jerry, sensitively played by Izzy McDonald, is a head-strong young woman looking for closure. Trying to find redemption and a kind of forgiveness for events in her past by returning to the, as it were, scene of the crime. She’s stuck in a pseudo purgatory and wants to break out. But banishing the demons of her past is not as easy as she had, perhaps, imagined. Retracing her steps and recalling her past does little to soothe her anger and pain, rather it opens old wounds and pours on the salt. This transitional journey, it seems, may be a longer and more convoluted one than she had expected.

Sitting in the hot, airless theatre it is often hard to imagine the landscapes playing out on the stage but here the company, and director Geordie Crawley, have created a wonderful vehicle for us to travel in. Clever writing interspersed with well-placed almost dance-like movement and underscoring help to transport us to Rottnest, the holiday island which is the genesis for Jerry’s pain as well as the home of a new friend, Bus Boy. This interesting yet troubled teenager, portrayed with honest sincerity by Sean Guastavino, immediately befriends her offering to ‘show her the sights’ of the island on his bus – his trusty bike. He knows all the routes and all the places to go of any interest as well as being able (with help from a friend who surveys the traffic) to advise on the quickest ways of getting around.

From the beginning of this relationship, we feel as though we are being included in a secret, discovering along with the characters an almost tangible treasure and yet what the treasure is is totally unknown. It is in the subtle twists and turns that the story takes that we find moments of joy and sadness, anger and hope, laughter and fear. Robert Woods’ simple lighting and evocative sound add another essential layer enhancing and complementing the straightforward staging and minimalist set.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” – Anaïs Nin

The central theme of this challenging play is the clash of ideals between the two young people whose lives have both been irreversibly changed by factors outside of their control. The grinding of the gears when ideologies and histories come together and the temporary respite of shared hopes and dreams. How do we combat the stigmas and assumptions that are applied to mental illness and where is the line drawn?

Whether they achieve what they set out to achieve is really a question for each and every spectator but the journey is compelling. While some of the dialogue seemed a little cliché and at times there was a little too much space to be found in the silence, this production brings a breath of fresh air to the Fringe. Rorschach have set out to unleash the beast, study it, understand it, accept it, and tame it, and while I am not sure they have fully returned it to its emotional and psychological cage, they have gone a long way to soothing the troubled souls of its history.

Overall this is is a story that needs to be told and a story that needs to be heard. All too often rather than confronting our heritage and our own personal demons we shut them away and try to forget. Take yourself on a journey of discovery, allow yourself to let down your guard, buy a ticket and ride the bus.

“Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace