Theatre review: Bull by the Company of Ten at the Abbey Theatre

Bull

Bull - Credit: Archant

It is a bold move for the Company of Ten to stage a production lasting less than an hour and without an interval - particularly at this time of the year when many people are reluctant to go out in the cold anyway.

Bull

Bull - Credit: Archant

But it certainly paid off if Saturday’s performance of Bull by Mike Bartlett in the Abbey Theatre Studio was anything to go by - all seats were taken and although most people had to keep their coats on, the audience was clearly riveted.

And what an inspired idea it was to stage Bull, which tackles the topical subject of workplace bullying, in what was supposed to be an office but was made to look like a boxing ring.

And throwing punches was definitely what the three protagonists did - to such an extent that the final scene was actually painful to watch.

Director Rosemary Goodman brought all her skill and experience to Bull which focuses on three workmates, one of whom will be made redundant when their manager appears to tell them who it will be.


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The weakest link is Thomas, played by Simon Dean making his debut with the Company of Ten, and as the play progresses his somewhat lame attempts to stand his ground in the face of his bullying colleagues, Isobel and Tony, gradually disintegrate until he becomes their victim in every sense of the word.

Simon is an excellent addition to the Company of Ten acting team and I am sure we will see a lot more of him in the future. He infuses Thomas with a mixture of misplaced confidence, hurt feelings and finally anger which erupts late in the play.

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But who wouldn’t have blown up at Isobel’s nastiness. Naomi Jamboretz in her smart office suit and stilettoes pushes the character beyond bullying to displaying an almost blood lust to destroy Thomas.

Her comrade in arms Tony, played by Oliver Sutton Izzard, is equally nasty but with a more subtle side - it is Isobel you come out of the Studio hating.

Making up the cast is Mark Waghorn as Carter, who seals Thomas’s fate and is every bit as bullying as Isobel and Tony but with the influence that goes with being their boss.

Bull is a powerful and compelling play and its quartet of performers are uniformly excellent from the way they deliver their lines to their eye and body movements. It is rare to see a team of players so totally absorbed in their roles.

It is not a comfortable evening for the audience but a totally compelling one and well worth seeing..

Bull is being performed at 8pm tonight (26), tomorrow (27) and Saturday (28) and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

MADELEINE BURTON

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