Bull by Mike Bartlett at The Young Vic

Bullying in the contemporary workplace is a rarely discussed subject in theatre so we were excited to see what Mike Bartlett made of it. Having started life in 2013 this play was in its second run at the Young Vic when we saw it on the last day of 2015.

Set up like a boxing ring, the GingerWig had prime (standing) seats as close to the action as physically possible, and then with raked seated on all four side, the adversarial and confrontational premise of this play was clear at the outset. This was matched perfectly with the kind of music you would expect to hear before a boxing fight, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and ‘We Are The Champions’.

On come Thomas, Tony, and Isobel, three colleagues fighting for two places at their workplace where the company is on the point of downsizing. What we see is a cruel series of playground-type bullying tactics employed by Tony and Isobel in order to destabilise and unsettle Thomas before the meeting which will decide who will have to go.

The confidence and character of these two cutthroat business types are in marked contrast to the quiet and shy Thomas, whose life is at the mercy of their pitiless onslaught. He slowly crumbles until he is left as nothing more than a defenceless animal, madly lashing out at his last remaining tormenter. In doing so he knocks over the office water fountain creating a beautiful finale, with him unconscious on the floor as the entire stage slowly floods around him.

Tremendous performances from the entire cast of Max Bennett, Susannah Fielding, Nigel Lindsay and Marc Wootton. A really well put together production by the Young Vic. Maybe one day we will have the chance to see ‘Cock’ and ‘Bull’ together in the same sitting. We wait to see.

Highlight of the show – Tony and Isobel pushing Thomas to put his face on Tony’s chest, completely ridiculous childlike bullying played out in a corporate environment.

WIGS 4/5

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