Reviewed – 7th February 2018
“a movingly cathartic piece of theatre”
Darkly entertaining, ‘Be Prepared’ is a compassionate, stirring one-man performance by Ian Bonar as Tom, caught up in a chaos of mixed emotions as he randomly becomes involved in the life and death of a complete stranger, Mr Chambers. More than simply an observation of the entropic nature of life, it is a heart-rending comment on the profound effect a chance event can have. Inspired by the death of his father and amalgamating personal recollections, his grandfather’s treasured memoires and his imagination, Ian and fellow collaborator, Rob Watt, create a character who skips restlessly between remembering and forgetting. From an entanglement of someone he only knows through incoherent phone conversations, he takes us on the journey of his own grief. It is a sincere description of bewilderment as he is confronted by his many conflicting feelings, from the shock of loss to the banality of choosing a coffin. The result is a movingly cathartic piece of theatre.
In the depths and darkness of the Vaults Theatre we are transported into Tom’s confusion with creative use of lighting (Charlie Morgan Jones and Nick Harvey) which cleverly adds intensity and drama to his shifting thoughts. The entrancing, abstract sound by Alex Crispin blends curiously well with the rumbling of the trains overhead and Rob Watt’s artful direction offers the audience a sensitive yet provocative production. The intensity does wear off slightly, however, towards the second half of the show when the script becomes faintly dishevelled, resulting in a mixture of rambling, theatrically-portrayed memories as the two strangers help each other remember those they are forgetting.
Ian Bonar has worked in television, film and theatre. As a playwright he opens himself up to the possibilities of a different path of expression and ‘Be Prepared’ seems to expose something he needs to talk about. He connects immediately with the audience both as actor and writer, luring us into his world to share his personal interpretation of a subject common to all of us and which we rarely divulge with others. He mesmerises the audience and implores sympathy with unabashed earnestness. It is humorous but tastefully balanced, showing the uncontrolled hysteria which takes over in such life-changing moments.
When grief hits, it unplugs a multitude of sensations which bring disorder and distress. The nonsensical picture of life leaves us floundering and leads to a search for meaning. ‘Be Prepared’ is sad, funny, reflective and impassioned, awakening in us a bitter sweet response to an inevitable part of life.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by The Other Richard
Vaults Theatre until 11th February