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Sun Bear by Sarah Richardson at Park Theatre | Review

According to a 2023 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the power of anger can be harnessed in such a way that it can help someone achieve what they want to in life. The optimum for success seems to be a mix of emotions, both positive and negative. For Katy (Sarah Richardson), however, anger is the dominant feeling, with asserts itself in behaviours that might make for entertaining theatre (or indeed film or television) but end up with her being hauled into the human resources department of the small but nonetheless corporate firm where she works and being lectured about what is and isn’t appropriate workplace conduct.

Sun Bear. Photo credit Jacob Cox.
Sun Bear. Photo credit Jacob Cox.

Her experiences working in a corporate office are relatable: I worked in one some years ago. I disliked it more and more with every passing week, even if some ex-colleagues introduced me to the habit of regular theatregoing – every cloud and all that. Unlike Katy, though, I didn’t hang around long enough for the proverbial pressure cooker to explode. I lasted one year and forty-nine weeks: I was told if I clung on for three more weeks, I could have had my leaving drinks paid for by the company, who pay for leaving employees who have served for two years or more. I refused.

Anyway, Katy has a lot going on, and irritating personalities at work don’t help. As yet another pen is ‘borrowed’ by a colleague from her desk (inverted commas because the pen will never be returned), she almost barks, “Why would you be so stupid as to leave home without a pen?” – what a question to ask on press night! “Nobody respectable has a name ending in a ‘y’,” she blurts out later, self-deprecation being extended to every Kelly, Tony, Ashley, Mary and Jeremy (etc, etc) out there just because she doesn’t like Pennie – with an ‘ie’ at the end – from the accounts department and how wonderful her life is.

A very dark humour permeates proceedings throughout, but in the closing moments the script becomes simultaneously more philosophical and emotionally dense, as there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Katy after all, and she’s got a plan to leave the past behind. Richardson’s Katy keeps her recollections of angry outbursts strangely entertaining – they result in guilt-free laughs rather than stirring up bitterness and resentment. Thinking about it, it’s a remarkably controlled performance – kept at a very comfortable volume, even when convincingly shouting the house (or should that be the office) down.

The play’s title is a reference to the tropical species of bear that has, according to the show’s programme, a reputation for aggression and attacking people and/or other animals without being provoked. I would argue the analogy isn’t quite right, as Katy is very much provoked by her workplace environment and the people in it. The outbursts provide a good level of dramatic tension, and perhaps there’s something to be said for letting one’s true emotions out. I wouldn’t want to find myself on the wrong side of Katy, whether she was cheerful or churlish or something in between. The play relies on the power of storytelling, with minimal set and props, and was an engaging piece of theatre from start to finish.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

In Katy’s office, everything is perfect. Perfect people, intrinsically entwined, working together as one big happy family. There is only one problem. Her.

Cold, cutting and out of control, Katy is one team-building lunch away from tearing the whole office apart, personalised mugs and all.

She is sinking. Having cut off all ties to any remaining lifeboat, Katy is drowning. Under the pressure of it all. Under the panic that refuses to give. Under the images of him that she just can’t shake. She is heading straight for rock bottom, with a line of burnt bridges blazing behind her.

But what sent her on this downward spiral? And is there anyone left that can stop her from the impending crash landing?

Sarah Richardson in association with Park Theatre presents the UK Premiere of

Sun Bear
By Sarah Richardson

Plays: Tue 2 Apr – Sat 13 Apr 2024

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