Review by Charly Ralph
After an acclaimed run at Battersea’s Theatre503, Stuart Slade’s BU21 has transferred to the West End’s intimate Trafalgar Studios. The ideal setting for a piece that showcases the spectrum of human emotion in the aftermath of a fatal terrorist attack.
BU21 tells the stories of six Londoners, each recounting the day a plane crashed into a West London suburb and the subsequent effects it had on their lives. All are now part of the same support group but the monologue format of the play enables the audience to get to know the characters as individuals first, before learning how their stories intertwine.
Slade’s writing is intelligent, endearing and terrifyingly honest. It combines horrific details of heart-breaking moments and inspiring images of unity and strength, all coming together with a surprising amount of humour. And it works perfectly. References throughout, for example checking Twitter for the latest news, made an already topical subject even more relatable and his plot development ensures the audience are gripped from beginning to end.
I was captivated by every individual performance as they transitioned from agonising memories to witty thought and back again. Isabelle Laughland was tragically charming and Florence Roberts’ depiction of a young girl suffering with PTSD was utterly compelling. Her counting of 22 seconds, the time it took for passengers of BU21 to fall from the sky, was incredibly haunting. Enhanced by the decision to plunge the theatre into complete darkness for the duration.
Alexander Forsyth’s obnoxious portrayal of a banker, who only discovered the betrayal of his girlfriend after her death in the attack, is the only character to break the fourth wall. He challenges the audience on their thoughts on specific moments of the play, as well as their common desire to pay to listen to stories of such suffering.
Breaking this barrier highlights that once again we are only experiencing this attack in the way most people have experienced all events of this nature. News reels, blockbuster films, staged performances. All mediums used to represent real life events, but always mere adaptations of the truth.
BU21 makes you think, makes you question your own ideas not just on what you would do if it happened to you, but also how you react when it happens to someone else. It challenges the very creation of such a piece, the deep-rooted human desire that craves to know more about such catastrophes.
Don’t miss this thoroughly enjoyable theatrical event, now showing at Trafalgar Studios until 18th February 2017.