Pros: A quirky script with big characters create a magnetic piece of storytelling.
Cons: Some dialogue was lost when actors moved to the far end of the performance area.
The Proud Archivist is an amazingly versatile venue, combining bar with restaurant, art gallery, coffee house and now theatre; although I must confess the venue is initially difficult to find, tucked away in a modern development by the canal side. Bunco is an ideal production for the clean, functional performance area the venue provides. Presented by Temporary Theatre, the play rides on previous success in Edinburgh and is an impressive first production for the company.
Bunco is a parlour game played in teams with three dice; mischief-makers would have us believe it’s merely a euphemism for a swindle or confidence trick. Thereby hangs this incredibly likeable tale of Annabell and Sebastian. The personification of 60’s chic, attractive, urbane and articulate, they offer the most intriguing of personal services from their London apartment. In the course of one chaotic evening they receive a procession of ‘friends’ who are offered three choices: dinner, hoax or late night drinks. They become ‘fake friends’ for clients who need a cover story to maintain a range of deceptions. For example, a man with an extra marital affair may need his mistress to meet friends who will back his story up. Annabell and Sebastian provide their service with slavish relish and there’s no doubting that business is good. However, we soon learn there are massive cracks in their relationship, as clients only serve to remind them how dysfunctional they are as a couple.
The four-strong cast make light work of an aggressive script and physically demanding routines. The mood veers from intimidation to slapstick, mixing riveting drama with laugh-out-loud humour. Stewart Agnew as Sebastian adds a touch of Basil Fawlty style swivel-eyed mania to the role. Yasmin Blake is mesmerising as the beautiful, damaged Annabell; while Louise Trigg and Christopher Wickenden adopt multiple roles as various couples visiting the flat; they were particularly skilled performing lightening quick costume changes even swapping genders at one point. However, what made this production really stand out were Frankie & the Bozboys, who provided musical accompaniment before, during and after the show finished. The in-house bar band at the Young Vic almost stole the show with a great selection of 60’s hits. A simple guitar/bass/percussion line-up backed Frankie Peach’s sweet, tuneful vocals. Bang Bang, The Night has a 1000 Eyes, Bad to Me and Happy Together were all well placed within the narrative, but no Beatles covers? There again proving the Fab Four aren’t the only musical motif of the 60s. Overall, the show represented the very best in production values and made the most of a unique venue. My only quibble would be the dimensions of the performance area; in their desire to use the full length of the oblong shaped space, dialogue seemed to fade into the distance and we all strained to keep up with the action. That aside, a fine effort from cast and creatives alike.
Author: Yasmin Zadeh
Director: Rory Campbell
Live Soundtrack: Frankie & the Bozboys
Producer: Temporary Theatre
Box Office: 020 7749 6852
Booking Link: http://www.theproudarchivist.co.uk/event/bunco-2-2-2/
Booking Until: 23 November 2014