Ah, the 1960s! And as they say, if you remember it you weren’t there. But in this sparkling production of Yasmin Zadeh’s “Bunco” at “The Proud Archivist”, we get a taste of the era as we head back in time to meet Sebastian and Annabell, a couple who seem to have everything as they sit in their very cool Thames-side apartment enjoying intimate gatherings with good friends. However, as with the action of the swan, whilst all is calmness and beauty above the waterline, below there is a different story going on.
Sebastian (Stewart Agnew) and Annabell (Yasmin Blake) are two young, smooth, middle-class people who offer a special service in their home – Dinner, Hoax, or Late Night Drinks. How does this work? Let’s take one possible scenario. Imagine you are a married man but you have a mistress (who obviously doesn’t know about ‘her indoors’). Your paramour is likely to get very suspicious if the two of you never go out to meet any of your friends – a complete no-no for you – so what do you do? Well, you take her to your “really good mates” Seb and Annabell for that intimate dinner, trip to the theatre or drink. Of course, you pay for the privilege of having ‘friends’ such as Annabell and Seb but its worth it to keep the little lady happy isn’t it?
Business is booming for Seb and Annabell and, through the course of the show, we meet many of their ‘friends’ – all played by the wonderful pairing of Christopher Wickenden and Louise Trigg – who pop in, drop off the brown envelope, enjoy their time with the couple and leave. Honestly, you wouldn’t think Annabell and Seb have a care in the world. However, there are problems under the surface. Annabell and Seb have some very strange clients. Then there is Seb’s jealous personality and Annabell’s not very well hidden acerbic wit. All of these are in play as we witness the characters go through an enthralling evening of betrayal, confession and horrific revelations leading to an understated, yet powerful conclusion.
The production doesn’t take place in a standard theatre – not a hint of a proscenium arch to be seen – but in a long, very white space with a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the canal. I initially thought this would be off-putting but thanks to the excellent directing by Rory Campbell it was used very effectively as part of the action. The audience sat on either side of the stage area looking inwards to the very plain, but on the whole appropriate set. A dining table (with a hideous ‘statue’ on it) chairs and a bar with a selection of drinks. The cast used every inch of the space brilliantly, with Seb somehow always ending up at the bar drinking enough booze to sink the Titanic. The far end of the stage area was occupied by Frankie and the Bozboys who delivered a wonderful period soundtrack, from singing us in as we took our seats, providing incidental music through the show and at one point even a fifth member of the cast, before finally singing us out. Using them was an inspired move by the producers, Temporary Theatre, and was a very welcome addition to the entertainment.
Christopher and Louise were brilliant playing their various roles – including a lovely an unexpected bit of role reversal for their final incarnation – and each character they portrayed was highly believable – I particularly enjoyed the odious Adam. Yasmin and Stewart’s Annabell and Seb were just superb. Annabell – beautiful, haughty, arrogant, flirty and pretty much in charge. Seb – well groomed, smooth talking, everyone’s friend but who could flip to screaming maniac in a heartbeat. These two played so well off each other you would think they had been working together for years.
I loved this show. Everything about it felt right. From our arrival at “The proud Archivist” where we had a wonderful 1960s inspired cocktail onwards. What defines a lovely evening out? Dinner, cocktails and a fabulous play and you can get it all with ‘Bunco’ One word of advice, make sure you get a good map as “The Proud Archivist” is a devil to find without one but believe me, it’s worth searching out.
Review by Terry Eastham
Get thrown back into the 1960s with this twisted game. Watch the story of Annabell & Sebastian, a couple running a seriously questionable business from their 6th floor London apartment. Over the course of one evening containing several outrageous house guests, their lives unravel; and their sickness is exposed for everyone to see. It’s a confidence game but who exactly is cheating? Oh and don’t forget about the man covered in blood under the table.
Fresh from an Edinburgh of accolades and formed from a fracture in several walls, temporary theatre presents it’s first play, Bunco.
Cast: Stewart Agnew, Yasmin Blake, Louise Trigg and Christopher Wickenden
Band – Frankie & The Bozboys: Frankie Peach, Randy Love, Tony and Oscar Zinetti
Director – Rory Campbell
Playwright – Yasmin Zadeh
Producer – Fereuse MacDonald
Casting Director – Rory Okey
Production Assistant – Emma Thesiger
The Proud Archivist
2 – 10 Hertford Road London, N1 5ET
Telephone 020 7749 6852
12th – 23rd November (Times Vary)
Thursday 13th November 2014