Aug 12 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆    Insufficiently horrid

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sun 4 – Sat 24 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a nasty drive to Bull at theSpace on the Mile that goes a long way towards convincing. Mike Bartlett’s play about workplace bullying and the relentless, socially Darwinian corporate struggle is presented by New Celts and Cold Pizza in a recognisably Scottish setting.

What moving the scenario away from its City of London roots loses in impact, it gains in immediacy. There is a genuinely claustrophobic feel to this version of a play where, as Susannah Clapp memorably observed, the twist is that there is no twist.

Chantelle Downie and Richard Burns. Pic: Cold Pizza

There is only relentless nastiness, and perhaps it is a failure to fully explore this nastiness that lets this production down a little. Robin Wilson’s direction is more than adequate, and is staged with a commendable lack of fuss, but lacks a little in drive.

Aidan Curran’s team leader Tony, bullshitter and manipulator extraordinaire, is well timed and has considerable presence, but is just a shade too cuddly and lacking in the privileged hauteur the character is said to possess. That hauteur is certainly provided by Roddyne Mentiplay in his brief appearance as the boss Mr Carter, all smooth justifications and oily corporate speak.

icily amoral

Chantelle Downie’s Isobel, Tony’s fellow bully, is wonderfully, icily amoral, while Richard Burns gives the put-upon, deeply troubled Thomas a wretched humanity. That the cast are rather too fresh-faced for the scenarios to convince fully is unavoidable and largely ignored, such is the commitment they bring to the task.

Chantelle Downie, Roddyne Mentiplay, Aidan Curran and Richard Burns. Pic: Cold Pizza

The biggest drawback here is an odd one – that the characters these performers present so successfully are too rounded, too human for what really has to be a cartoonish description of capitalism taken to its most ludicrous, dog-eat-dog extent.

There are hints here that Isobel’s contentions are true, that Thomas’s relationship problems really have made him a misogynist, but this is one of these plays where light and shade are something of a drawback, and it just needs to be a high-octane affair, always teetering on the brink of going out of control.

Nevertheless, this is an accomplished production with much to recommend it, and a failure to be sufficiently revolting would not necessarily always be considered a fault.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Sunday 4– Saturday 24 August 2019
Even dates only at 12.25 pm
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bull

Facebook: @ColdPizzaPR
Twitter: @ColdPizzaPR


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