Pros: The cast is pretty good.
Cons: The tension-building directorial tricks made me quite anxious.
By some uncanny coincidence, my first two visits to The Yard Theatre both involved freakish productions that, despite coming from completely different creative teams, closely resembled one another. Last year I saw Nina Segal’s Big Guns and this year it’s been the turn of Josh Azouz’s Buggy Baby, directed by award-winning Ned Bennett.
Starting with a predominance of pink and purple lighting, shared features include the use of handheld microphones to deliver lines, together with loud disruptive noises – both effects that I consider unnecessarily distracting.
Buggy Baby opens with a thundering low-pitched sound that startles the audience before leaving them in complete darkness. Talking through the microphones, characters recount stories of a difficult migratory journey that sees many people perish. Three of them however escape fortuitously and settle in East London.
These are a young mother called Nur (Hoda Bentaher); a confused man Jaden (Noof McEwan), whose accent seems to mutate as time passes; and a seven-month old baby girl confined to a buggy, named Aya (Jasmine Jones).
Nur isn’t happy about Jaden’s addiction to chewing leaves, although she’s the one who brought them into the house in the first place, insisting he try them, before having some herself. These leaves induce strong hallucinations in Jaden, which become increasingly threatening to the welfare of his baby daughter, with whom he spends most of his days.
Portrayed as a withdrawn young woman, unable to show any maternal feelings, Nur appears unable to cope with her surroundings and is slowly moved by desperation to perform some extreme actions.
This bleak reality is breached twenty minutes into the play (when I’m already longing for the curtain to fall) by the baby girl, who unexpectedly addresses mother with an unrestrained string of cursing and oral sex advice. Her brazen wit and cockney accent get the best response from the audience.
Unfortunately, these side-splitting interventions are too short and sparse. Abruptly disrupted by Jaden’s nightmarish visions of blood-thirsty anthropomorphic rabbits.
As a means of creating tension in the auditorium, their appearance is preceded by a moment of complete darkness, before a sudden loud noise and a flash of light reveal their presence in an unpredictable spot in the room. Being sat on the second row by the aisle – which was occasionally used as a part of the performance space – every time this happened, I found myself nervously trying to scan the pitch-black auditorium, in an attempt to perceive anything that might approach me. This made me increasingly anxious and, not being a fan of jump-scare moments, I wish I had been warned beforehand (in which case I would have chosen a different seat!).
I am not sure about the purpose of these directorial choices, which made me leave The Yard with many unanswered questions. Sure thing, the creatives produced a performance that stands out from the crowd and must have been a serious challenge for the talented cast of five.
From my personal experience, Buggy Baby has some muddled but interesting topics, although it was way too unsettling for me to enjoy it or ever recommend to someone else.
Author: Josh Azouz
Director: Ned Bennett
Producer: The Yard Theatre
Booking Until: 31 March 2018
Box Office: 020 3111 0570
Booking Link: https://theyardtheatre.co.uk/theatre/events/buggy-baby/