“I can’t get on the bus cos I’m waiting for this old man to call”
What is the right way to grieve? Is there even such a thing? Ian Bonar’s Be Prepared throws up such questions as we meet Tom, and by extension Mr Chambers, who are having a tough time of it. Tom is mourning the death of his father, Mr Chambers the loss of his wife but thing is, they don’t know each other. The only reason they’re in contact is because the elderly Mr Chambers keeps mis-dialling Tom thinking he is a funeral director.
And as writer/performer Bonar takes to the stage in a brilliantly conceived opening, we get to see how this accidental meeting develops into something of a life-raft for the pair of them, a way of starting to process the discombobulation that accompanies the death of a loved one. The shots of weird dark humour that pop up in the most unexpected of places, the strange comfort that comes from unburdening to someone who doesn’t know you, the distressing weight that feels like it will never lift.
With director and dramaturg Rob Watt, Bonar has fashioned a densely packed monologue, which oftens ape this disorientating effect. It weaves together three strands – Tom’s own account of how his father’s death has affected him, his interactions with the endearing Mr Chambers, and also his boyhood time in the cubs and scouts – and flits between them endlessly. Bonar’s consummate skill as a performer means you’re deeply touched but the overall impact proves a little relentless, even if this is the intention.