Personally, I’ve not been a fan of British Comedy style. The standups work well sometimes but sketches are hard to sell to an international audience. Having said that, British comedy laced with cringe/awkward comedy and dark humour work well (even if they are acquired tastes). This mindset made Bunker, a brand new comedy by Jonathan Neary on an upcoming apocalypse, an interesting show to watch. The writing felt fresh and the premise was well set. The Last Year party got off to a good start with the couple’s (Vincent and Julie) banter on party preparations and followed up well with hilarious takes on table aesthetics and a packet of crisps. The actors did justice to the source material and got quite the laughs from the audience.
The minimal complexity of the mainshow’s set allowed Bunker to have enough space on the stage to utilise for different conversations going on in the party. Given its a late show comedy, lighting by Sneha Parmar was minimalistic and appropriate but better usage would’ve tightened the loose pauses. The script is of good quality giving the actors enough material to work with but doesn’t give enough room to fill up the occasional long silences. Something a bit of improvisation would’ve smoothened and made the show more appealing.
The show was a good watch and definitely funny but more emphasis on the delivery of cold blows would’ve made it a show hard to miss. I loved how the show kept lurking towards dark humour and coming back and would’ve definitely enjoyed it more if it went more dark and insidious given the apocalyptic premise. In the end, the show comes together but it lacks a few finishing touches especially in the entrance and exits of characters on the stage.
The obsession with a table’s look and a bowl of crisps was one of the best banters in the show. Although the sperm donor and cold blows dished out were also brilliant. Another funny element was the awkwardness (intentional or not) amongst the characters and the infectious laughter that followed that. Andrea’s (Sara Sioufi) misery and Michelle’s (Arabella Alhaddad) niceness were the most funny elements used by the cast and their integration into the show’s progress was hysterical and well set. Christian Longstaff’s appearance as Frances was a great addition to the show and one of the high points of the play. Josh Bailey and Coco Wheeler as Vincent and Julie were delightful with the rest of the cast also doing a great job.
The show’s ending could have been more well paced and it felt a little dragged after the party’s guests go down the bunker and the host couple contemplate their life together and the days left with the impending apocalypse. More work on the gaps between conversations and their setting would have definitely helped. Overall, Bunker is a fun lighthearted show to watch and doesn’t require much thought going into it and to have a good laugh.
My British friends had a great time watching the show and it worked really well for them. I don’t want to sound snotty but this might be a personal bias considering how international comedy (from the American and Indian versions are more louder and less subtle) is significantly different from British comedy. I believe the source material is an excellent script for a screenplay and for it to work as a play, it required more tightening and smoother transitions. To conclude, it’s always refreshing to watch interesting premises set up for comedy shows and offering good banter with minimal brain power usage and Bunker does well in that. Comedy with new, intriguing styles is always fun to watch either sketches or complicated ones relying on music, the only question is if it works for the audience or not.
As a theatre enthusiast, going in with an open mind is quite important whether familiar with the style or not. Bunker might not be the best comedy I’ve seen but it’s got it’s unique value and I’m sure the audience will find it amusing
Bunker by Jonathan Neary is on at the ADC Theatre at 11pm until the 20th May. Tickets can be bought here: https://www.adctheatre.com/whats-on/play/bunker-footlights-harry-porter-prize-winner-2021/