It's a simple idea: six people find themselves trapped on the upper deck of a London bus whose driver has taken an unexpected detour. I must confess I had never heard of the Bulgarian playwright, Stanislav Stratiev, from whom this hour-long oddity emerged. As tensions rise amongst the passengers, power struggles ensue, fist fights break out, and frantic attempts to placate the driver look hopeless.
A combination of Stratiev's lacklustre script and theatre company Whynot ARt's poor efforts make this an evening to forget. First and foremost, the plot, unlike the bus itself, seems to be going nowhere particularly fast, and the production's staggered and often languishing pace does not help any.
Secondly, The Bus appears to suffer from an crisis of identity, and I am certain I was not alone in wondering which style it feels it belongs to. Is it a farce? Or maybe a black comedy? Sometimes, it turns into dark absurdism. Even after the curtain had fallen, I still had very little clue, but whatever it claims to be, the dialogue is too silly and soulless to be believable anyway, and it seems the company have not made a concrete choice.
Lastly, the production values are worryingly unstable - and that includes the set into the bargain. Supposedly humorous moments and gags just feel cheap and signposted and the performers often wrestle unconvincingly with any comedy routines, some of which the Carry On team would have been ashamed to include.
So, what of the cast? Well, to be fair, there is hardly much to sink their teeth into, and a few performers emerge relatively unscathed. K Williams has her share of strong moments as a sassy and ballsy American, and J Murphy is saved by a more natural characterisation as well as displaying decent timing. Saying this, you can barely hear A Balascan and on the occasions you do, he is rarely comprehensible, and J Tregear shows he needs more than energy to see him through, becoming increasingly awkward and annoying as the play develops.
As Stratiev's piece eventually reaches its conclusion, we have descended into improbable farce (a frenzied group attack with loaves of bread occurs) and there is no way back, unfortunately. One is left pondering if the physical director, M. Lager was necessary, and indeed, if it was worth catching the bus at all? In my opinion, I'd much rather walk.
- Adam Elms