Sunday, 15 January 2017

REVIEW: Abigail at The Bunker

Preparing an interview to Abigail's director Joshua McTaggart, I had a chance to learn a lot about The Bunker before having visited it personally. As its artistic director, Joshua started this new venture almost a year ago with Executive Producer Joel Fisher and together they have created a platform that fosters the creative process and invites the audience to spend time in the venue before and after the show. Thanks to a series of ancillary initiatives – like exhibitions, live music and talks – theatre enthusiasts, new writers and actors alike now have a welcoming space for their discussions. 

Welcoming is, in fact, the perfect word to describe The Bunker. Heading down a slope – beneath the Menier Chocolate Factory, in Southwark – I found myself in a pleasant environment, where the rough looks of a dismissed car park have been softened with warm lighting and a relaxed seating area. Only the central part of the auditorium has conventional raked seats, whereas the mezzanines on both lateral sections have chairs and small tables for the audience to rest their drinks. The stage glows with a brilliant white carpet and the only way to the bar is along its proscenium. In the background, the set is made of a stack of cardboard boxes, as if someone had been preparing to move out.

Abigail is the story of a man (Mark Rose) and a woman (Tia Bannon) who are picking up the pieces of their relationship. Whilst we scroll back and forth in their timeline with a series of well-choreographed transitions, we learn how they met, where they went on holiday and what drew them apart. Witnessing their joys and their sorrows, we experience her neurotic need for control and his desperate attempt to escape. 'How can you love, then stop?' asks the woman. 'I hate when I'm with you' whispers the man. Emotional and physical abuse
emerge from the woman's character, whereas the man is in a state of complete surrender. Now flooded with a stark lighting, the venue's concrete walls echo the same claustrophobic feeling and both actors are brilliant in effortlessly delivering a piece that requires continuous mood swings. 

When going to visit The Bunker, make sure to arrive early (the bar opens an hour before the show), stay late and don't miss the opportunity to scribble on the slates inside the toilet cubicles. And, if you're going to see Abigail, expect a solid, well-polished and thoroughly directed piece of theatre that, combined with the complementary offerings of The Bunker, caters for a special night out.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★
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