|Buckets - At The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
An 'absolute winner', writes Liz Vercoe
This new play about death, timely and untimely, fizzes with life. If you've ever asked yourself, What am I here for?, don't miss the answers offered here.
Buckets is the first full-length play by established theatre director Adam Barnard, and interestingly he has thrown out many of the conventions that directors normally have to work with, such as a time frame for the play, the sex of the characters, or even who says which line. Instead he had constructed what initially feel like a series of sketches and a dialogue which may or may not be exchanges between people. Theoretically you could see this play in the future and it would be entirely different. But, hey, isn't life like that? Sliding doors and so on.
But now is now and this version at the Orange Tree, directed by Rania Jumaily the theatre's resident director, is an absolute winner. You just have to go with the flow and let the ensemble cast of Jon Foster, Tom Gill, Charlotte Josephine, Sarah Malin, Rona Morison and Sophie Steer, plus nine singers, take you on a journey through all your thoughts and fears and best-laid plans that is the stuff of life...and, inevitably closing the circle, death.
Designer James Turner has set the scene with a blue carpet planted with yellow chrysanthemums and something like a stainless steel water slide. Here we are taken to a hospital, heaven, railway platform, kitchen, school, local news website... And so short are some of the 30-odd scenes that to start with it feels a bit like watching a serious version of Mock the Week where actors leap to the centre of the stage to deliver their improvised lines.
Unlike improvised words, however, Adam Barnard's are carefully weighed for full impact and the scenes build and interweave until the one thing you know it's that it's never to early to start your bucket list. As one of Sophie Steer's characters says: "If you have this experience, if you actually do this, it will become a memory and you'll have that memory for the rest of your life. You'll carry it like a favourite teddy bear, a blanket, a photograph you never throw away. If you don't do this you won't have the experience. It won't be inside you." And then she makes the point that even bad experiences are part of being alive.
Stand out scenes include Charlotte Josephine teetering at the edge of a railway platform at midnight, Tom Gill agonising on the plight of the African schoolgirls he'd like to rescue, Sarah Malin expressing the disappointment of a parent whose ideas and dreams of motherhood had been based on a totally different sort of child to the one she gave birth to and Rona Morison giving a Justin Beiber-like figure a piece of her mind. But it's Robert Day's embryonic character in "Terms and Conditions" who challenges us to think about what exactly life is all about: how it's sometimes one step forward and two steps back and that nothing is certain, but that we have the power of surprising ourselves and we can be excited and scared and happy and sad. We can also sing.