BASH

Fri 5th – Sat 27th August 2011

reviews

Madeleine Morley

at 10:21 on 21st Aug 2011

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Euripides wrote plays in Ancient Greece that were used as mouthpieces for contemporary issues. He was unique amongst the other great tragedians of ancient Athens in that he demonstrated sympathy towards less exposed victims of society, like abused women or ignored beggars. BASH, written by famed and controversial American film director Neil LaBute, does the same; it explores the complexities of evil in everyday life, bringing Euripides bang to date by setting the collection of three one-act plays against the backdrop of the dark, lonely and unforgiving city of Manhattan.

The first monologue is addressed to an unseen person at a bar; a chillingly convincing confession from a man who you slowly realize has murdered his own baby. Each member of the audience is subjected to intense eye contact with the actor as he confesses his crime. At first you feel awkward and uncomfortable, but soon you relax into you're role as the passive, appalled listener. It becomes a compelling and intimate game working out who you might be in relationship to the speaker.

Solomon Mousley has a terrifyingly menacing presence and is a wonderfully charismatic actor, amongst the finest I've seen in any of the student theatre productions in Edinburgh Fringe this year. He's definitely someone to keep you're eyes out for in the future. Alice Bonifacio does well to hold her ground beside him, the two working together for a chilling duet in the second section. The three scenes suggest a deranged therapy session between characters from Mad Men and the button eyed mother of Coraline. The lighting plays across the eyes of Mousley and Bonifacio and creates great tension, while the pair delve into the turbulent, psychotic minds of their characters as they coolly express the reasons for their shocking sins. BASH is a concentrated dose of incredibly pure acting ability, a disturbing psychological insight into the violent workings of the darkest minds as they deal with their chilling actions, and sometimes revel in them. One wonders why the production chose this particular set of monologues, that take place in New York and are extremely removed from anything else playing at the Fringe, but they are beautifully, savagely confessional and are a perfect medium to showcase some fantastic acting talent. Sometimes this sort of pure performance of great, mesmerizing writing is unforgettable enough in itself.

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Imogen O'Sullivan

at 10:45 on 21st Aug 2011

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This thought-provoking two-hander opens on an appropriately intimate stage, emphasising the confessional element of these audience-addressed monologues. As Solomon Mousely offers to refill my drink with unflinching eye-contact that empties the room of all other listeners, revelling in well-times silences that scream a tortured soul, he creates a fragile magic that makes an audience scared to breathe too loudly or uncross their legs for fear of shattering it.

The sparse set keeps the focus exactly where it should be - on these two accomplished and impressive performers. As tears spring to Mousely’s eyes, sympathy fills the room in waves, forcing you to question the outrages natural humanity will allow you to forgive; the Humanism touched on in Alice Bonifacio’s final chilling confession.

The clear commitment to character development is most apparent in impeccable attention to detail, the rubbing together of hands as Mousely holds his drink draws the audience’s eye to this nervous tick betraying all-consuming guilt. My only criticism of his compelling performance was that it was not immediately clear as the lights came up on the second scene that his character had changed whilst Bonifacio managed the difficult switch into the third scene admirably. However, his powerfully graphic delivery of a sexually charged assault on a gay man recreates the garish claustrophobia of a graffiti-plastered toilet to an almost abhorrent extent, the closeted sexuality of a man trapped within the expectations of a sheltered and repressive society implies a powerful criticism of the ‘American Dream’ and the evils such social conventions can release.

The violent revelations of each character do not disgust an audience as they should, due to the actors’ tremendous skill in creating empathy and understanding. Both of Bonifacio’s affecting character depictions revel in the blinkered protection of a delusional, bordering on unhinged, facade – a mask from their own failings and the evils in the world around them. The powerfully real exploration of the psychological damage caused in formative teenage years by one in a position of power allows an audience to venture to understand the appalling crime she later commits, her monologue highlighting a universally acknowledged sympathy for human failings - ‘we’re just humans’.

The standard of acting is exceptional throughout and the piece as a whole is undoubtedly thought-provoking, the real challenge for an audience comes in working out the link that joins them together to make a coherent and unified production. An obvious plot overlap may have made the theatrical experience more satisfying for an audience, though perhaps a thematic link concerning the nature of sympathy is already present for those looking hard enough, or maybe the real answer lies in Bonifacio’s concluding lines – there is ‘never an answer’.

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