Bubble

Kieran Hurley
Theatre Uncut
Theatre Uncut
to

Graeme Stirling and Uma Nada-Rajah Credit: Theatre Uncut
Emma Semani Credit: Theatre Uncut
Rose Sharkey Credit: Theatre Uncut

Ever since Emma Callender and Hannah Price created Theatre Uncut almost a decade ago now, the company has been an uncompromising voice in the world of political theatre, ever inventive and always remaining ahead of the curve.

It therefore comes as no surprise that this 45-minute-long video play by Scottish writer Kieran Hurley is not so much issue-led as bag-of-issues-led, nor that it is highly entertaining.

With a cast of 10 actors drawn from no fewer than eight nations and universities in England, Scotland, Denmark, Spain and Portugal, the format follows online communications between a group of youngsters and lecturers at university, largely via Facebook chat rooms.

The catalyst for what eventually becomes an explosive series of events is an angry, off the cuff verbal tirade delivered by frustrated Professor William Barrett, played by Graeme Stirling.

In trying to bring his class to order, he allegedly refers to Emma Semani’s Anna using the word “slut”. The happy-go-lucky young woman is barely fazed, more interested in pursuing her academic and especially social interests.

However, some of her peers are infuriated, demanding that the lecturer be chastised or worse.

What soon turns into an unholy alliance is led by Malou Keiding as Jane Jones, the moving force behind the Feminist Society, supported by perennially angry Hannah played by Emilie Robson and Emanuel Sonuga taking the role of Connor.

On the other side of the argument, unworldly Dr Barrett has assistance from the University, represented by the feminist intellectual Dr Naomi Hoefferscheid, portrayed by Uma Nada-Rajah.

What starts out as a kind of updated version of David Mamet’s Oleanna soon moves on to address a series of issues, largely fired up by the kind of behaviour that has become de rigueur on social media, where far too often black and white extremes swamp the more emollient shades in between.

Stirred up by the efforts of put-upon Rose Sharkey playing student journalist Courtney, viewers are eventually forced into considering a series of moral and ethical decisions.

Amongst other issues, feminism is set against its male equivalent, while the balance between free speech and the need to prevent those promoting offensive views, whether this is a middle-aged teacher using a misplaced word against a student, a teenaged woman threatening to “kill all men” or a far right extremist wishing to spread his propaganda on campus.

While the plotting is occasionally a little contrived, the issues are important and production qualities impressive, ensuring that what could have been no more than a series of talking heads becomes a fully-fledged production, complete with emojis, images and music.

Playwright Kieran Hurley and his co-directors Emma Callender and Hannah Price will undoubtedly have their own views about these issues.

Pleasingly, by utilising a combination of good sense and carefully imposed balance, they allow viewers to make their own decisions as they watch a gripping play that will help them to escape from the madness of their own world today into the madness of this one. Best of all, Bubble should provoke debate almost as fiery as that depicted on the screen.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher