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Enjoyable comedy following a single epic journey south on the titular night bus
It is a well-known fact that south London is the capital of London. This green and pleasant almost tube-less land has given us some of the finest things this city has to offer. It’s given us Morleys Fried Chicken, Manze’s Pie & Mash and Bagel King; it’s given us Peckhamplex, the Rivoli Ballroom and those wonderfully weird dinosaur statues in Crystal Palace; It’s given us Stormzy, Adele and the founding members of So Solid Crew. It’s given us parakeets, guys. And so it’s only fitting that playwright Mark Daniels has dedicated his comedy ‘N89’ – named after, and set on, the night bus route that goes from Charing Cross to Erith – to these inimitable streets.
It’s got all the characters you’d expect to find on London public transport. A pair of strangers who may or may not fall in love by the time they get off, an overbearing American tourist, and some guy whose terrible music is leaking from his cheap headphones. And there’s an oversharer (there’s always an oversharer). When they mix over the course of the journey, rambunctious shenanigans ensue. Half the fun of the piece is trying to guess where the characters are coming from at that time of the morning – East Street? Those guys must have stopped off for a jerk chicken bagel. Marquis of Granby? That group of rowdy revellers have definitely just left Venue.
Daniels’s writing relies heavily on stereotypes for comedic effect but some of them are outdated and exaggerated, so fall flat. It features some underbaked takes on racism, too. There’s redemption in the performances, though – Bradley Carpenter takes on six roles and is so good, he is barely recognisable with each new appearance. Natasha Vasandani is great, too. It’s all woven together in 60 minutes with some fine direction from Edwina Strobl. Once you’ve suspended your disbelief that a trainee solicitor would endure 69 stops from Charing Cross to Welling High Street instead of just Ubering it, ‘N89’ is great fun. God bless south London, and all who sail in her.