(Not a) Review: Bull, Finborough Theatre


“He only takes part in marathons to sleep with the charity workers”

Mike Bartlett’s new play receives its world premiere here at the Finborough as part of Vibrant, their 30th Anniversary festival celebrating new plays from playwrights with connections to the Finborough theatre. In a move surely designed to provide the West End Whingers with a few more months of jokes, the play is called Bull, making it an ideal companion piece to his last, immensely successful, and Olivier award winning play Cock, I can see the double bill already…A Cock and Bull Story anyone?! The 30 premieres are all staged readings but offer an intriguing look at what some of the most exciting fresh playwrights are currently working on.

Faced with recession and cutbacks, the company has decided to lose someone from Thomas’s team. He is determined it won’t be him, but his two colleagues have other ideas. Daniel Ryan, fresh from his run in Posh as a put-upon publican, is Thomas, a put-upon businessman here, unfortunately not the intellectual equal of his peers and consequently the perfect victim for their goading and bullying, the bull to their matadors assumably. Ryan plays the dunderhead extremely well, his indignant anger doing little to help his cause and the way in which he is cut down quite heartbreakingly difficult to watch.

Adam Jones and Sian Brooke are simply terrifying as Tony and Isobel, Thomas’ super-confident and viciously manipulative colleagues, toying with him, baiting him and ultimately humiliating him even in the knowledge of their already-secured victory, such is their enjoyment of simply ‘playing the game’. They both delivered bitingly cruel performances, wrapping their tongues around the acerbic text and spitting out their lines with a coldly calculating air. Robin Soans has the minor part of Mr Carter, the boss making the decisions about the redundancies, pulling off a nicely patronising tone of a target-obsessed corporate type.

Even in a seated reading, it was plain to see the potential in this play and I am very much looking forward to seeing how it develops into a fully staged production, especially if it is as innovatively designed as Cock was. For people who can’t wait for their Mike Bartlett fix though, his Earthquakes in London plays at the National Theatre in the summer.

Running time: 50 minutes
Programme cost: 50p

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