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VIOLET at The Bunker Theatre | Review

Violet, The Bunker (Bebe Sanders) - courtesy of Sam Donnelly
Violet, The Bunker (Bebe Sanders) – courtesy of Sam Donnelly.

Twenty-seven-year-old Bertie is lost, adrift in the chaos that is the modern metropolitan existence. She flees the city and takes refuge in a sleepy seaside resort, house-sitting for her cousin, where she indulges in a depressive spiral, with enough self-awareness to identify the narcissistic indulgence of the privileged millennial, but too little to escape.

Until one day, out of the mist, looms the elderly and enigmatic Violet. The play is the story of the unlikely friendship that follows, as they both face very different existential questions. Written and performed by Bebe Sanders, this is a cultured and impressive piece of drama, showing empathy and understanding of the paradox that each woman faces.

The two women grow closer, as Bertie starts the never-ending task of sorting through a lifetime of memories. The old house on the cliff top, that has been Violet’s home for so long, is stuffed with the tale of her years. Superb set design, movement and tech operation by director Ellie Gauge, who takes multi-tasking to a new level, assisted by production manager, driver, scene shifter and sand shoveller, Ben Giles.

We see Bertie literally and metaphorically struggling with adulthood. Sanders’ movement is ceaseless, she owns the stage, and her physicality carries an impressive amount of the narrative. Her close facial expressions are superb, clearly visible, bringing a filmic quality to the performance in the intimate space.

Rich in detail, with so many highlights, from pickled eggs to Lindy hop to a bag of wool abandoned in Tom’s wardrobe; Sanders tells the story with a light touch, a marvel of concise exposition, with a betrayal heralded by a single line, a sock discovered where it did not belong.

As her relationship with Violet deepens, so secrets emerge, boxes are mislaid, tragedy goes up in smoke on the bonfire of a life’s detritus. Bertie finds herself becoming lost in someone else’s story, and kicks back, only for Violet to kick her back harder. The feisty snowflake melts in the glare of a real life of hard choices, ultimately being humbled by the resource and courage of the old woman in the face of tragedy. Then, terrified by the dawn of self-awareness, she flees back to London to try and climb back into the remains of her former existence, setting up the climax and an effective cathartic punch.

A nuanced and subtle performance by Sanders who perfectly captures both characters, switching between them with ease, aided by Julian Starr’s eloquently executed sound design. Initially, Bertie’s wisecracking self-deprecation is a cover for her emotional unavailability, but she emerges as a woman of power and grace, albeit with not a few, often hilarious, pratfalls along the way.

The work plays at the Bunker until the 8th December, with dates at the Tristan Bates and the Vaults already booked and a tour of seaside towns planned.

Wistful and memorable, this work is highly recommended.

4 stars

Review by Laura Thomas

There’s no bullshit with Violet. She’ll say something blunt like, ‘life can be lonely’ and I’ll be like, ‘yeah it can’ and that’s it. Then we just crack on. It’s nice

Violet is starting to forget, but she’s got a long life to remember before she does. There are rights to wrong and ends to tie up; a life well lived is never neat. Generations younger, Bertie is at the beginning with no idea what lies ahead. She’s looking for something to point her in the right direction.

From new playwright Bebe Sanders and award-winning company Poor Michelle, VIOLET is a new play about human connection and inter-generational friendships. It quietly explores themes of mental health, dementia, and loneliness without forgetting the often funny and absurd moments of ordinary life.

Poor Michelle presents
by Bebe Sanders

Writer & Performer Bebe Sanders
Director Ellie Gauge
Sound Design Julian Starr
Production Manager Ben Giles

4 – 15 December
Tuesdays – Fridays: 7.30pm
Saturday 15th: 3pm & 7.30pm
Running Time: 1 hr.


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