Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

buckets

Adam Barnard
Orange Tree Theatre

Sophie Steer, Jon Foster, Tom Gill and Charlotte Josephine Credit: Robert Day
Rona Morison and Tom Gill Credit: Robert Day
Sarah Malin, Rona Morison and Charlotte Josephine Credit: Robert Day
Jon Foster and Charlotte Josephine Credit: Robert Day

Rania Jumaily’s production of this new play by Adam Barnard offers bare feet, red balloons, yellow chrysanthemums poking out of a sky blue carpet, a playground slide and even a glitter ball overhead: a set of lively symbols with the emphasis on live.

But buckets is all about death, or at least the idea of dying, and how we handle it. That is the thread that draws its thirty-three scenes together.

Barnard’s script names no characters, assigns no lines to individuals. A scene may be a single line (just five words in one case) or an extended scena but the actors here make each vignette a situation full of meaning.

What’s on your bucket list: the things you want to do before you die? Can a young child understand the concept of their own death? What do you think about euthanasia? Sometimes scenes seem linked: cancer creating a connection, sometimes a character makes a reappearance.

There are children and parents, the terminally ill, the suicidal, lives who know that they are nearly over: but this is in no way gloomy. While it looks at dying, it celebrates life and presents a wicked sense of humour.

Tom Gill and Sarah Malin have a scene playing their favourite pop songs to each other, though the audience doesn’t hear them, Charlotte Josephine a suicide recording last words as she waits for a train to throw herself under is mugged for her mobile, Sophie Steer a girl who just wants the experience of being kissed, Rona Morison a lesbian counsellor whose cool control sparks Jon Foster’s anguished parent into an outburst of anger.

As they interact in their multiple characters, it’s a cast that delivers great teamwork and there’s music too with occasional input from an a capella Community Ensemble.

There is a delightful scene in which new souls are launched on life by a privatised industry, an afterlife assessor who gives a score for achievement, but mostly this play vividly captures quirky moments of living while offering reminders that flower petals fall and death comes to all of us.

Barnard’s set of variations could take on different colours with different allocations of its text to other ages, other genders. It doesn’t aim at any great profundities but it is entertaining and this cast and director make it a vibrant, sometimes poignant ninety minutes.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton