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Review of Bump! at Tristan Bates Theatre – Camden Fringe

Bump!
Bump!

As a significant proportion of the millennial generation likes to say, I’m not gonna lie. The opening scene in Bump! was so ambiguous I almost lost patience with the play altogether. Eliana (Oriana Crystal Charles) is sat in Non-Specific Every Place in a monologue about regretting what was said, and pondering what she really wants. But who said what to whom and whether what she wants is achievable isn’t explained.

Well, it isn’t explained straight away. The audience’s patience is rewarded as all eventually becomes clear, but that opening scene still, ultimately, serves no purpose. Repeated in context to close the show out, there’s an argument that the plotline comes full circle, but it would still have been better to have gone straight in with the second scene, with its upbeat vibe and sheer physicality plunging the audience directly into this frenetically-paced and exhausting to watch production.

Seldom has anyone needed a can of fly repellent more than Eliana. As it is, an intermittent but persistent buzzing sound annoys her when she is sat in her front room. (If it’s a metaphor for something, I know not what.) She encounters Ian (Andrew Hollingworth) in a road traffic accident (spoiler alert: no casualties), a bizarre way to fall in love, but the unconventionality of it fits in well with the somewhat avant-garde nature of the show as a whole.

It’s all performed with considerable gusto, and both performers give it their all. Even the scene changes are extremely active and a joy to see – clunky blackouts with stagehands frantically carrying some things off and other things on are not for this show. The script, too, is exceptionally sharp-witted, and the production gloriously portrays the reserved nature of the British. For what is actually said is not necessarily what is meant, and the resultant scope for misunderstanding is therefore wide.

The audience, therefore, knows more than either character, as it is exposed to a large number of asides in which thoughts are voiced out loud. Some may find this approach rather corny, and it does admittedly leave practically nothing to the audience’s imagination. For my part, the better informed I am, the better.

The conversations between Eliana and Ian capture the awkwardness of people who are still getting to know one another; their facial expressions ‘speak’ as much as the dialogue does. One of these days a play will come along in which the female character is the one with the brains. Here, it’s Ian who waxes lyrical about string theory and information technology. At one point, in the mess of bedroom activity, particles indeed collide to produce new matter from the kinetic energy arising from the collision. I am, I realise, making the play sound more pedantically geeky than it really is.

Without giving too much away, it’s all about the quantum entanglement. A moment of Attenborough-esque commentary momentarily makes each of the duo a human specimen. And look out for a costume change, deliberately hurried as both characters are running late: it’s a hoot. From beginning to end, the timings of the sound effects and corresponding actions must be utterly precise, and this production nails it every time. Even the sending of text messages has choreography. While the accompanying music in the show is not the sort of stuff I would normally choose to listen to, there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud humour to be enjoyed in this hilarious, heartfelt and hyperactive show.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Eliana and Ian share their inner thoughts directly with the audience until they ‘Bump!’ Their awkward conversation begins…From here on their inner thoughts and spoken words overlap and echo in accord with each other as the characters pivot between their conversations and the audience in a speedy rhythm. The dialogue combined with physical sequences act as a metaphor for colliding atoms, creating a unique concoction: a Rom-Com with quantum physics. Bump! contains plenty of humour that is balanced with poignancy, as the pair’s conflicts and struggles are revealed on an intimate level.

Listings Information
Show: Bump!
Company: Buckle Up Theatre
Venue: Tristan Bates Theatre
Date: 31st July – 5th Aug

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