Newly devised show by Potter & Wagner, Bitter sees the reunion of three school friends, Wendy, Melissa and Mavis, who’ve finished with university and are now back home, facing the everyday boredoms of real-life adulting. The trio decide to meet up weekly to share their lives with each other; as they do so, we’re exposed to extracts of their lives, through sound, dance and sketch-like scenes. Risking a descent into total structural boredom, the play takes an absurd horror twist, with the final scenes comedically suggesting that the monotony of post-uni life might just lead to a bloody murder.
The writing (devised by the cast, written by Helen Potter) is filled with relatable references: the endless loop of watching telly till 1am every night and then repeating that again and again; the pre-drinks leftovers which get ‘all mixed up in a Volvic bottle’, this line being joyfully sung out to us in a sort of revolutionary chant; the patterned structure of a night out as they ‘bar, drink, toilet, smoke’ and repeat, repeat, repeat. Not all of the humour lands as well, but there’s certainly enough in there to keep us entertained.
Dance and physical-theatre-esque sequences are carefully choreographed and performed, with words and lyrics tightly fitting around the music and layers of sounds, which are recorded live on stage with the help of two microphones and a loop pedal. The cast often find comical ways of working with their sound and movement sections, giving the whole show a sketch or parody like quality. A moment where a small white bench becomes a conveyer belt checkout counter, and various body parts move along and scan through the checkout is very clear and clever.
All the actors are lively and vibrant throughout the show. Helen Potter, Jo McGarry and Emily Hindle (Melissa, Wendy and Mavis) bounce effortlessly off each other’s dialogue, emphasising the sense of teamwork within this devised collaboration. William Shackleton (Brian) provides a series of abhorrent characteristics and does so with great success. Some of the comedy feels a tad pretentious at times, and the cast are well-supported by an audience of friends and fans which boosts audience laughter at some moments which might not land so well to a purely public crowd, but this works in the context and style of this performance.
Despite the comedy, the show also makes some commentary on its socio-politics; a bloody murder followed by a side comment about the awful carpets and terrible landlords (we can all relate); the suggestion that buying a spice rack makes one a woman now (even if there’s only one spice); the catch-twenty-two of the university graduate who pushes too hard to shit and ends up with piles (this is seriously a brilliant metaphor for life as a post-uni student; that endemic struggle for young people and the pressures to succeed). The scenes are pieced together with the meetings of the three women sharing their lives with each other, and even the monotonous repetition of this is enough to represent the everyday boredoms of adulting.
I think it could have been fun to bring more of the horror elements to the show; a genre which plays a crucial part in the production’s marketing campaign. The poster image of a woman crushing a lemon leaking blood over her hand is hardly fitting with the visuals in the show itself, and it would be nice to see the company move forward by playing more with the abstract ideas expressed on the poster, which only really feature at a few moments during the show itself.
That being said, what they do produce bears the signs of a company to keep an eye on, so let’s see what they get up to next. Personally, I’m hoping for more fruit and blood.
Review by Joseph Winer
“When I had my first period I thought I’d shat myself.”
“My boyfriend says my mum eats too many double deckers.”
“I think my housemate’s planning to murder me…”
Wendy, Melissa and Mavis, three liberal women enjoying the foul, abject horror of their early twenties, have a lot to say. They’re underpaid, overworked and by god, if they have to start a lame-ass sharing group to be heard, they will. Like any organised activity in Britain, there are tears, an accidental murder and copious amounts of guilt about global warming (and maybe also the murder…only joking, who cares!?….nah but we do…..HAHA NO WE DON’T….no but seriously, we’re not psychopaths….or are we?….no.)
Sunday 10 – Monday 11 June 19:00
New Diorama Theatre,
15 – 16 Triton Street,
London, NW1 3BF