Sometimes I sit in a theatre and feel like I’m watching a completely different show to others. So when a gent in the front row guffawed heartily as Bunker Buddies hurtled towards its climax, I began to question myself, because by that stage unfortunately all I wanted was for it to be over. By that stage it had bounced about so many different ideas without ever landing fully on one that I had given up hope that it would end with any satisfaction.
This production does begin with comic promise. Lots of rushing around and screaming introduces us to Joe and Anna, the only two to have made it to the bunker in time before the nuclear war annihilated the planet. This is followed by a good piece of movement performance that perfectly and amusingly portrays the boredom that we would surely all feel if stuck with just one person in a confined space. Of course we all know what happens when two people get stuck together, and before long the inevitable happens. So it’s going to be a story about an unlikely duo falling in love? Nope.
Next we are introduced to the cleaner, or janitor (annoyingly, both words get used); the mysterious third person who has been hiding in the bunker and tidying up. Both Joe and Anna decide they love her although it’s never explained why or how, considering we never see her. But perhaps this means it’s a story about queer love, or we’re interrogating the concept of a mate for life when there are so few options?
Guess what? No again, because suddenly we are introduced to Steph, who at first you could mistake for that cleaner but it turns out is actually the salesperson who sold them their spaces in the bunker. And I will be honest, it was around this point I felt my blood starting to boil with the utter frustration of the whole show. Steph is played as if the stage direction was ‘with extreme slapstick’, but it’s never obvious why this felt a sensible choice. The script reinforces this as Steph tries to play tricks on Joe with the help of Anna, seduced by the promise of a Snickers bar. Oh, maybe it’s a play about the madness of isolation? Maybe Steph is a figment of Anna’s imagination? But alas, again no, and once more any ideas forming are dashed as we hurtle off to the next notion they want to throw in this overflowing pot. Perhaps the hope is that with enough thoughts stirring around they might lead to something good. But they don’t.
And if you get the feeling that by now I’d zoned out, you would be quite correct. I have no problem with a show that tries to keep you guessing, but it needs to have something you want to guess at. Bunker Buddies doesn’t manage that as there aren’t any real carrots dangled to give you something to latch onto. It flip-flops wildly and aimlessly, never seeming to know what it wants to be. And if the show doesn’t know, what hope is there for an audience? Even the conclusion when it comes, clearly aiming to give meaning, fails to do just that. It simply results in a shake of my head at how utterly unsatisfying it is, cheaply thrown in as if it will make us think how clever it is when it is anything but.
But on the other hand the laughing gent in the front row would clearly disagree with my assessment, so maybe it was only me who had lost the will to care by the end? Or maybe he was a plant, just to confuse us even more?
Written by: Dísa Andersen
Directed by: Ronja Siljander
Produced by: Koffin Productions