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Overheard at The Bunker Theatre – Review

Overheard at The Bunker Theatre
Overheard at The Bunker Theatre

The premise of Christopher Adams’ production is an intriguing one: an entire piece of theatre sculpted out of overheard conversations in London. On arrival at the Bunker Theatre, I was given some programme notes that outlined the rules that underpinned this performance piece:
1. Recording must only be done in a public place.
2. People must be speaking publicly in that public place.
3. Never go somewhere specifically to record.
4. The text is anonymised.
5. What they said is written down word for word.

The result of this exercise? Nine actors recreated a series of eavesdropped exchanges in a variety of contexts, some that made more sense than others, with varying levels of comedic effect – from school bus taunts cleverly set in the houses of parliament to heartfelt moans about the labour of maintaining one’s fingernails, hilariously portrayed by the male members of the ensemble.

This piece could very easily have been an unconnected sequence of random scenes but the decision to channel the dialogue through the wider story of a typical day in the capital was a good one and gave the play a sense of direction. The Attenborough-style documentary commentary during the scene changes was very entertaining and suitably progressed the piece.

Personally, I was a little let down by the end. Some of the conversations we had heard previously were repeated in different settings, which didn’t seem as funny the second time around. The rather violent physical exchange between two of the women of the cast paired with relatively mundane dialogue in the final sequence was an interesting juxtaposition to explore but it fell a little flat, evident by the delayed laughter and applause by the audience at the scene’s climax. Many of the other scenes set in a café, the tube, a theatre rehearsal etc., however, were much stronger than this final incident in a bar/comedy club.

While many of the scenes were clearly crafted to invoke laughter, there were also some touching moments that represented very real situations experienced by many Londoners (and non-Londoners alike). For example, travelling on the tube in uncomfortable stony silence while a homeless person begs for loose change and the agony of sharing a very pressing personal problem with people who just don’t seem to want to listen – rather ironic given the nature of the show. I admired the group for including dialogue that didn’t just make you chuckle as is often the goal in similar magazine articles covering such anecdotes.

Normally on my way home from the theatre I stick on some music to pass the time on the train. I came away from this piece prompted to leave one of my headphones out. You never know what you might overhear…

4 stars

Review by Fiona Scott

Following a sell-out scratch, ‘Overheard’ comes to The Bunker Theatre with brand new verbatim conversations recorded out and about in London. A gender-equal and diverse cast of eleven actors, (re)present the weird and wonderful characters of our capital in all their glory.

Funniest play I’ve ever seen @OverheardPlay – astonishing performances & extraordinary true conversations overheard in #London | @DrJaneMcNeill

The cast of ‘Overheard’ been recording conversations while they go about their daily lives. Not people’s private whisperings, but when it’s impossible not to listen: Dom Joly style phone calls or bust-ups on silent buses – you know the type. They take those words verbatim, anonymise them, and bring them to life once more before your eyes. Sometimes, the context is changed – builders become Beauty Queens and schoolboys become MPs at the despatch box – but the words are always exactly the same.

“1: I can clean your nails for you tonight. it will be fun.
2: It doesn’t sound like fun.
1: Like me more.”

You’ll never put your headphones in during a bus journey again.

Christopher Adams – Director & Creator
Robin Hellier – Fight Director
Ollie Mann – Image

Christopher Adams, Joey Akubeze, Katharine Bennett-Fox, Louisa Hollway, Alexander Jeremy, Susie Kimnell, Emer O’Connor, Charlotte Salkind, Jamie Seymour, Sam Thorpe-Spinks, Aisha Weise-Forbes

Monday 19 February 2018 at 7:30pm
Running Time: 75 minutes without an interval


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