Stuart Slade’s gritty drama BU21 was a smash hit at Theatre 503 in 2016 and has now transferred to the Trafalgar Studios. The concept of a fictitious show about six Londoners in the aftermath of a future terrorist attack was intriguing to me and so I went along to check it out on Press Night last night.
BU21 is a story told through a series of monologues by survivors of the BU21 aeroplane crash in London’s prestigious Chelsea area. Graham (Graham O’Mara) was one of the first witnesses interviewed about the attack on TV and has been writing a book about the events, using the stories he has been hearing at group therapy sessions. It is these stories that we go on to hear in this gritty, uncomfortable 100 minute drama.
The show opens with Harry Potter star Isabella Laughland‘s character Izzy reminiscing about the day her office building shook as the terrorist attack took place and how after brushing the broken glass off of her and being told not to leave the building, she did what anyone would do in that situation and Googled “what the fuck is going on”. What Izzy wasn’t expecting to see was a picture on Twitter of her dead mother (what a way to find out).
Floss (Florence Roberts) was making a cheese sandwich in the kitchen when all of a sudden a man, still strapped in to his seat on the aeroplane, suddenly landed in her garden. That man was Clive’s (Clive Keene) father and he is looking to Floss for answers to what exactly happened to his dad. Alex (Alexander Forsyth), found out his girlfriend was cheating on him with his best friend because their dead bodies were fused together in his bed and Ana (Roxana Lupu) was sunbathing in the park before her shift at work and was set on fire but thankfully her Micky Mouse towel meant she could put out the flames and survive. Whether or not dying would have been better than living though is questionable.
Breaking the fourth wall and making the audience even more uncomfortable, one character looks people in the eye and questions why you would come to see a play about a terrorist attack. “Do you get off on the idea” he asks which is met by glances at the floor from everyone in the room, questioning why exactly they are there.
BU21 is not for the feint hearted. These stories aren’t sugar coated and sweetly told, they are honest and angry accounts of desperate and destroyed human beings, trying to make sense of what has happened to them. Beautifully acted by all six members of the cast, there are a lot of comedy moments which are brilliantly executed and the use of sound and lighting is perfectly timed. Eerily the characters names are variations on the actors real names which adds to the idea that whilst the story isn’t based on one actual event, this is very much real and has happened to many people like them and like us.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: David Monteith-Hodge
BU21 plays at Trafalgar Studios until 18 February 2017