As soon as you walk into the Studio it becomes apparent that this is not going to be your typical night out at the theatre. It feels more like you’re walking into the charged atmosphere of a prize fight; this feeling is enhanced by the standing area around the “ring” and the music that greets you on entry.
Bull is about Thomas, Isobel and Tony, three employees awaiting the arrival of their boss who is set to decide which one of them will lose their job. Sales is a competitive area and these three are all determined that they won’t be the ones who will end up on the scrapheap. Out of the trio, it looks like Thomas may not be the one with the stomach for the fight.
The title itself appears to refer to three things: Bullshit, Bully and Bull Ring, all of which play a large part in the production. As the characters bounce around the ring, you can smell animalistic tension in the air. This is more about the survival of the fittest and natural selection that the fight to retain a job; macho posturing and underhand tactics are both on show. Lies and half-truths merge with anxiety and stress to form a potent brew.
The first half of Bull is characterised by the dark humour and razor-sharp repartee, but as the play progresses it takes on a much darker tone. Whilst it is never short of laughs, there is a palpable change in the atmosphere as it approaches the finale; adding a new twist on the phrase “water-cooler talk”. There is superb acting all round and wonderful use of the staging and space. Written by Mike Bartlett, who is undoubtedly one of the best young playwrights around, the dialogue is what sets it apart from most new plays.
At 55 minutes, Bull packs one hell of a punch and will leave you slumped on the ropes gasping for air.
Bull is running until 23rd February at the Studio Theatre