Brilliantly provocative drama about six Londoners who survive a terrorist attack
BU21 is the number of an imagined passenger jet, shot down over Fulham by terrorists in the summer of 2017. Stuart Slade’s smart, cynical breakthrough play (a transfer from the tiny Theatre 503) follows six Londoners who survive this catastrophic attack. First we get their descriptions of the awful day: hundreds of passengers plummeting to their deaths from the burning fuselage before it crashed into west London. Then it homes in on these people’s lives – and doesn’t like what it sees.
Slade has a fascinating style, walking a very fine line between blackly comic empathy and caustic audience-baiting. ‘BU21’ examines its characters’ flaws and their ability to squander the basic nobility afforded by surviving a terrible tragedy. At the worst end there’s Graham (Graham O’Mara – the cast all share names with their character), a racist, misogynist plumber who has dined out for months on the adulation of playing hero on the day. Others are less bad. Ana (Roxana Lupu) is a Hungarian waitress left with terrible burns, who adopts a ruthlessly pragmatic approach to the remainder of her life. And then there’s Alex, an obnoxious, manipulative banker who breaks the fourth wall to harangue the audience, asking us why we’ve come to watch a show about this subject matter, baiting us by saying we would have thought the crash was a greater tragedy if it had hit a poorer part of London. He even accuses us of racism for thinking one of the other characters might be one of the terrorists – which is fairly outrageous given Slade’s own narrative strongly suggests he is.
‘BU21’ threatens to overplay its provocations; strutting like a big hit when it’s only in a small studio. But Slade’s play and Dan Pick’s production has a bristling, pugilistic hunger, a raucous sense of humour and a refusal to be satisfied with itself that stops it disappearing up its own arse. And it’s clear that Slade loves his characters: shits that they are, he makes us understand them all. He’s a genuinely fascinating new voice.
Average User Rating
3.7 / 5
- 5 star:1
- 4 star:1
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:1
- 1 star:0
Fantastic show, deserved winner of the many accolades it has received in its previous incarnation at Theatre 503 and here.
A great idea spoiled by completely unrealistic dialogue. Nobody (from any class, age or ethnic group) talks like this! Does this playwright ever listen to real people talking? The gratuitous overuse of profanities is very distracting and turns these characters in to unbelievable parodies rather than real, relatable Londoners. I didn't believe for one minute that any of these people (with the possible exception of the waitress) could actually exist in the London that I know and this prevented me achieving any real engagement with their potentially fascinating experiences.