The village gossips are titillated when Bud marries Myrna, a woman ten years his senior who has arthritis and ‘collateral’. Bud is adamant that he loves his wife, but can their marriage survive the needling doubts that begin to appear? In less than an hour Bud charts the eponymous character’s turbulent marital journey and secret psyche.
In an impressive one-man performance Neil Sheffield’s elastic face and charged physicality show Bud morphing from the village idiot to Arcadian lover to Machiavellian monster. Playwright Nick Darke’s lyrical language and Sheffield’s West Country burr transport us to an insular, rural world populated by the arthritic Myrna, prattling village gossips, the imperious Lady Richard and an enigmatic squatter who lives in a shed on the farm.
Penny Cliff’s sharp direction is full of nice touches and playful genre switches. Moments of slapstick comedy sit comfortably beside romantic interludes and flashes of creepy horror film imagery, which adds an interesting depth to Bud’s emotional confessions.
Jessica Maliphant’s set is perhaps rather too urban for the play’s rural setting, although the working props are a nice counter-point to Bud’s theatricality, and the dull whir and thud of the tumble dryer onstage provided a surprisingly atmospheric sound effect.
Darke’s play was originally commissioned by the RSC in 1985, but its disjointed and episodic narrative feels remarkably modern. Jumps back and forth in time are marked by Simon Gray’s atmospheric lighting and a rather heavy-handed soundtrack.
The conclusion, while nicely performed and directed, is perhaps not the shocking revelation it should have been but Bud is a quirky and absorbing one-man show and a fine way to spend 45 minutes.