★★★★ | BU21
We’re bombarded every year with news of atrocities. We might try to avoid looking at the scenes on the news or alternatively seek them out with a ghoulish fascination. We might worry about it happening to us or think about how we’d cope with say a gunman opening fire or a bomb blast. The certain fact is that bad things happen in the world and we can’t avoid knowing that they do.
‘BU21’ looks at the human aftermath of a terrorist plane attack which causes mass causalities in suburban North London. It’s a wry and witty play that’s multi-layered and never predictable. Told as a set of interconnected monologues it’s a 100-minute ride with surprising humour as well as pathos.
Graham has been elevated from van driver to national icon, having been one of the first to be filmed at the scene on the news and now finds this gives meaning to his life. Izzy learned that her mother had been ripped apart via Twitter and is trying to use her middle-class skills set to cope with this. Waitress Ana was horribly burned and maimed whilst sunbathing before her shift and is living life in a cold vacuum. Floss is seeing a dead man everywhere she goes. The thing is she was at the kitchen window and a man fell to earth in his plane seat and died looking into her eyes. City banker Alex’s flat was hit by wreckage which led to the unfortunate discovery of his girlfriend’s body welded to Alex’s best friend mid-shag. Finally,
Clive is a devout Muslim. Raised with no religion he’s found comfort in Islam and wants to tell us about his side of the story.
It might all sound unbearably grim and definitely like a play to avoid watching during a grey English January but this is where author Stuart Slade surprises tricks and teases. Slade’s characters are varying in their resilience, their surprising humour and their ability to get through. The play also turns its gaze upon society. Why do we want to watch this and what does our fascination with tragedy say about us as a society or as individuals? Slade plays with our prejudices too and laughs at and forces us to laugh at ourselves too. This is an alarmingly sad, hilariously funny and utterly pertinent play and is an experience you won’t stop thinking about for quite some time.
BU21 plays at the Trafalgar Studi0 until Feb 18th
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.