BU21 – Three Stars ***

abum21BU21, written by Stuart Slate and directed by long-term collaborator Dan Pick, tells the story of a fictional terrorist attack in London. Why? Perhaps to protect victims. Perhaps to allow for an unbiased telling of survivors’ stories that otherwise would be scrutinised for their appropriateness and accuracy in retelling of testimonials.
The production is fast paced, humorous and delivered through a series of monologues, which are self-professed as ‘self-indulgent misery porn’.

A plane is shot down and crashes in Parsons Green area, and the group is limited to six 20-somethings, who are, some more neurotically than others, trying to make sense of life beyond the fatal attack, which involved thousands of Londoners, and rendered them angry. Biscuit-counting Derek runs the trauma group, which forms the core of this piece as we follow the group for a year and is supposed to help them deal with the trauma. Only, there doesn’t seem to be much healing. The monologues are delivered to the audience in mostly a cynical fashion that it leaves the desire for internal growth and development unsatisfied, even if the breaking of the fourth wall is entertaining, the outbreaks are predictable and presumptive. It seems this play tries to do so much at once, it tends to fail to invoke sympathy for the characters. Moments of intimacy and insight flare up and as soon as they do, collapse in themselves in text that is too knowing too soon. Perhaps this is a comment on this particular age group: one that is ordinarily accused of lack of in depth character development and instead prefers surface excursions and assignment of blame.

This is an entertaining enough evening performed on a simple set, the construction and deconstruction of which cleverly interlinks the scenes and storylines. The at times self-indulgent writing is rapidly delivered by highlight acting from Alexander Forsyth (whom you’ll love to despise) and Graham O’Mara (whose fraudulent behaviour is possibly the biggest surprise of the piece).

In conclusion, there’s enough to discuss and think about after.

Review by Alice Kornitzer

BU21 at Trafalgar Studios, running until 18th February.
Tickets available at the theatre, www.trafalgar-studios.co.uk or on 0844 8717615.

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