Sunday, 6 May 2018

REVIEW: Grotty at The Bunker

I would say that any show announced at The Bunker is worth seeing. It’s one of the newest off-west end theatres and is presenting incredible new writing, shaking up the London theatre scene! Until 26 May, it is presenting Grotty, a new play by award-winning writer Izzy Tennyson that takes us right into 2018’s London lesbian scene. It takes its main character Rigby (played by Tennyson herself) to stinky basements and girlfriends’ “lovely” but sometimes dangerous flats. 

Alcoholic drinks are consumed, as well as hard drugs, and Rigby, who is dealing with her first sexual experiences with women, is searching for something. It takes us a while to find out what that is and more specifically why she keeps going back to people and locations that may not be so good for her, especially as she is still discovering so much about herself. 

We meet her, a hunched over and shy but surprisingly open girl in her early twenties, as she is working as an intern in TV and goes out to party hard every night. A chatterbox, she quickly tells us that she is attracted to people who have mental issues and often finds herself standing at the top of buildings without knowing how she got there. She is looking for some sort of connection and love, but gravitates towards girlfriends who shatter her and who don’t give her the hugs she asks for.

The text of this play is an absolutely beautiful hurricane. Rigby’s words flow out of her mouth, she just can’t stop making comments about every person around her and how helpless she feels at times. It is funny and scary, and very real. As the play progresses, there are more and more moments where Rigby says “I don’t know”, and her verbal diarrhoea turns into a very sad revelation about her family. 

Around Rigby are further characters: Witch (Grace Chilton) is a violence and shame-loving woman who Rigby sleeps with. Witch is cold and very direct but is hiding her own anxieties underneath. Chilton, an absolute joy to watch in this show, also plays Elliot who wants to connect with Rigby in an honest way. Rebekah Hinds plays Josie, another girlfriend of Rigby’s who will keep circling back into her life, and Natty, her straight friend who keeps telling her to just find a “nice girl”. Anita Joy-Uwajeh is wonderful and brings humour to Josie and Natty. Everyone’s physicality and the switches between characters are very well thought out by director Hannah Hauer-King, making everyone unique and bringing us to wonder whether these characters could be our neighbours. 

The set design is also precisely executed. Anna Reid’s design turns a set of square pouffes into nightclub tables as well as a bed. All elements and props are delicately hidden away in order for the actresses, barely leaving the stage, to transition smoothly between roles and scenes.

Towards the end of the show, Rigby tells us that we are now skipping a few years. This threw me off a bit, although the rhythm of the play quickly takes off again. I wonder whether this transition could have been made differently. 

This is a funny, surprising, gritty and unique play that embraces very current issues and shows us an underground world that I’ve rarely seen depicted.

Review by Sophie Tergeist

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: free seating | Price of Ticket: £19.50

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