Up the Bunty!
Lion and Unicorn Theatre
Reviewed – 13th December 2019
“In worrying and troublesome times, I really can’t think of a better way of spending a Friday night”
Following a successful run in the summer as part of The Camden Fringe, ‘Up The Bunty’, returns to The Lion & Unicorn Theatre for a short seasonal revival. Fitting really, as the plot focuses on a theatrical reunion for a little known 1970’s soap opera, ‘The Soaparetta’s’.
Producer, Harry Hepworth has managed to recall most of the stars of the original cast and with a couple of added newcomers, puts them through a less than successful rehearsal period, before packing them up on a train for a run at a theatre in Southend. On arriving in the town, members of the company start disappearing and it seems we have a psychopath on our hands.
The set consisted of a table dressed with a polka dot cloth and some crockery along with half a dozen stacked chairs. All these were well used to depict various scenes and the uncluttered set gave the actors plenty of room to express themselves and they certainly didn’t hold back.
Lighting was fine, although blackout timings were slightly off a couple of times, projected films showing scenes from past episodes of The Soaparetta’s along with talking heads, were very well made and timing for these was excellent.
Most of the budget for this show must have been blown on wigs. The characters were so far over the top that rather than stepping into caricature, these actors jumped in with both feet. This was obviously a decision made by director Suzy Catliff and why not? The whole show was so frantic and loud, I would love for there to have been a few moments of quiet to balance out the frenetic energy.
The cast clearly had a ball, with Welsh, American, Spanish, luvvie and bimbo characters, it was a little bit like watching that other 1970’s series ‘Mind Your Language’, there was nothing subtle about any of these performances. Michael Stafford Wells was the pompous and overbearing director Harry, Jack Donald amusing as the gay actor Brian with Cameron Butterwick playing the Spaniard Juan-Two, although I enjoyed his performance as PC World a whole lot more. Jess Nesling amused me no end as she tried to find her motivation for being an albatross, Lucie Anne Neale was a little underused as Go-Go but had a lovely singing voice with Olivia Thompson, who wrote the play, loving every minute of playing Annie and was excellent in the final scene. Let’s not forget Bunty The Beaver, oh what trouble a glove puppet can cause, although I doubt Gordon The Gopher and Ed The Duck will be losing too much sleep.
Every character seen as a talking head, had a ridiculous name such as Dickie Ticker and Miss Hope Less, again fitting the style that this company were clearly going for. As much as I admired these video clips, I did find that they caused the action on stage to be a little stop start.
Musical numbers were fairly sparse, although I loved ‘I’d Love To See You Up The Nile’ and ‘Anyone Can Be A Psycho’.
I’m not going to remember this as a theatrical masterpiece, a lot of the publicity describes the play as bonkers and I’m not going to argue with that. It did however make me laugh at its pure silliness. In worrying and troublesome times, I really can’t think of a better way of spending a Friday night. I just wish they’d handed out tacky Bunty keyrings as we left.
Reviewed by Chris White
Photography by Jamie Spindlove
Up the Bunty!
Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 15th December
Previously reviewed at this venue: