Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Neil LaBute’s Bash is certainly not one for those of us who avoid being confronted by taboo, but is a compelling 50 minutes of high quality direct address. Loosely based on three Greek Tragedies, the audience finds themselves listening to the darkest deepest secrets of strangers, who appear to have little remorse for their actions.
A stillness falls over the auditorium as the action is about to take place. A single actor utters his opening line in a thick US accent, and the house lights stay up. They remain up for the entirety of the production, and this break in theatrical convention is crucial to the success of the work. 50 minutes can be a long time to watch a monologue, unless the storytelling is compelling and the audience feel as if they are there with the character. This production of Bash does exactly that. Without this strong light remaining over the audience, reality would be suspended, a sense that all is OK as it’s just a performance would be instilled upon us, and, we would not have to face up to the stories that are being told.
A young cast of two, deliver a monologue each, and separating their two speeches is a fluid and haunting duologue, recounting of a night in Central Park. Both actors tackle this challenging material with sophistication and ease, creating a disturbingly sexy performance of a complex and striking piece of literature. The vivid imagery and beautifully constructed language LaBute employs to transport his audience into the worlds of his characters is compelling, and rolls of off the performers tongues effortlessly. The intelligent mapping of the characters journeys from director and actors alike, allow for subtle details to be found and conveyed across to an audience who are hanging on every word.
The design of this piece is hardly exciting, however delivers exactly what is required of it, and it is nice to see a company who have a real grasp on the idea of “less is more”. With the use of a black stool, a steel chair, a small side table, a glass and a tape recorder, the audience are transported to the three different worlds and nothing more than the stories are required to create such captivating and vivid pictures.
The stories subtly twist and turn keeping the audience one a knife edge for the duration and allowing such tension to be created inside the theatre that nobody will move of dare to make a noise incase a crucial word or statement is missed. Such is the intelligence in the way the LaBute has structured his language, that at times a twist or turn is so subtle, a thought has to be taken to ensure that a statement was indeed heard correctly.
Adikia’s production of Bash is arguably definitive. The actors are exciting and mysterious. The direction allows the audience to enjoy the twists and turns of the work as the stories unfold and LaBute’s language casts a hypnotic spell over its audience. Bash is an exciting and gripping example of what compelling storytelling can achieve.