Bash: Latter Day Plays is a trilogy of one act pieces by Neil LaBute, in which seemingly nice, virtuous people admit to some very dark deeds indeed.
This production is the work of new company said&done, a mix of professionals and recent graduates aiming to provide opportunities for up-and-coming theatre practitioners across the North West.
And what a statement of intent is Bash. A stylish set, on which diagonal white ribbons cut through the black box performance space and naked light bulbs hang over each character, leaves the performers with no place to hide. This is literal, as each actor is on stage throughout, waiting to be illuminated for their play.
The first, Iphigenia in Orem, saw Loadstar Theatre Company’s Simon Hedger take on the role of a gentle, yet highly-strung businessman looking for a listening ear in a hotel bar. He had a secret to get off his chest; certainly something you wouldn’t guess. Hedger’s performance was solid, and LaBute’s writing spot on for breaking the audience in, conversational and full of changes in pace. The story had a gut-wrenching twist, possibly the most effective of the trilogy, and Hedger’s transformation from a nice guy talking of faith, to a shattered man in denial of a terrible crime, was completely compelling.
Next followed A Gaggle of Saints, where a loved-up young couple recalled a big weekend in the city. It was a departure for the Royal Court’s Rachel Rae, who slipped into an American accent with ease, and LIPA undergraduate Luke Gray, whose timings had to be perfect for the style of the piece to work – their story was pieced together as if each was telling it separately to others sat directly in front of them.
It was impossible to take your eyes away from these characters as you hung on waiting for the twist, and possibly none more so than Samantha Meisner, who carried the final piece, Medea Redux. She played a woman in the midst of a police confession, and as she talked through her actions, fiddling and chain smoking, she elicited nothing but a pitiful sympathy as the intrigue built up. But did she deserve it?
Unfortunately, although this may have been intentional by the writer, the similarity in outcome between this and the first piece took away some of the impact of a quite mesmerising monologue.
Saying that, Bash remained a work that ultimately asks a lot of interesting questions of its audience, makes you think, and doesn’t provide easy answers or obvious twists. It stands or falls on four powerful performances, all of which seemed quite faultless in this production; not to mention a strong directorial hand. A duff accent or too much clutter could shatter the intensity of the trilogy, and the production team seemed to have made all the right calls on this one.
As said&done have taken a leap of faith, so should their audience. There’s one last chance to see Bash: Latter Day Plays at the Unity tomorrow (June 22).