Following a successful run at Theatre503, Stuart Slade’s acclaimed production has transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 for a limited run.
It imagines the aftermath of a fictional future terrorist attack: flight BU21 is shot down on 22 July 2017 over Parsons Green in southwest London. The six individuals (Alex, Clive, Floss, Graham, Izzy & Ana) are brought together as a support group, led by the unseen Derek, designed to help them through their own traumatic experiences – whether they’ve lost a loved one, been injured themselves, or were affected by what they saw on that fateful day.
Told mostly via a series of monologues, BU21 may be a story about a specific type of catastrophe (one that is sadly rather imaginable to us these days, especially if you live in a major city), but its message applies to any terrible event. Bad things happen, but how you deal with them is the key. Slade’s script is hard-hitting, and graphic at times, but also incredibly funny – there is something very human about laughing in the face of adversity. It doesn’t mean you’re not taking things seriously, it’s just a good way of coping & getting on with your life.
Slade also directly addresses the audience via Alex, acknowledging their presence as people paying to be entertained by the characters’ suffering; it’s a clever way of making you feel less passive, as well as maybe questioning what’s classed as entertainment now. As the whole story is fragmented into each person’s tale, told bit by bit, it allows Slade to provide some red herrings about their place in the overall picture, before everything becomes clear. Keeping you thinking until the end also prevents the play from becoming another passive experience.
The cast bring Slade’s script to life in a very natural manner – monologues can feel very staged, however these are far more conversational in tone, making it very relatable.
Alexander Forsyth stands out as Alex the seemingly aloof & carefree City boy, providing us with an hilarious commentary, but clearly everything isn’t as rosy as he suggests. Beneath his bluster is a damaged man trying to pretend that he’s still the same person, but little actions betray him.
My verdict? A dark comedy that really hits home – simply staged but exceptionally performed.
BU21 runs at Trafalgar Studios 2 until 18 February 2017. Tickets are available online and from the box office.