Bunkered

Date 20th July 2019
Society Cast and Crew Theatre Workshop
Venue Richmond Hall Benfleet
Type of Production Play
Director Zahna Hall

Report

Author: Jess Pether

Bunkered is a comedy play, set (not surprisingly) in a bunker, sometime around the modern day. Manned by four Naval personnel all nearing retirement, we quickly find out that after the Cold War, the Navy simply forgot about them… but they continued to be paid, so continued to show up for work! Things start to be revealed and unravel when Peter, one of the intelligence officers who works there, brings in Harry the handyman to check on some of the old equipment. Harry’s sister Joan also works in the bunker, along with married couple Mags and Bill.

I found that this really is a play of two halves. Act one, although kept pacey by the cast who deliver their dialogue slickly, is very conversational and wordy and doesn’t contain as many laughs as I would expect from a comedy play. It is used more to set up the story and explore the characters’ relationships.

One of the most enjoyable actors to watch for me is Martin Lepley who plays Peter. He has a charm about him and gives a confident performance. Perry Baker as Harry is also good. He reminds me of a character from something like Only Fools and Horses and is one of the funnier characters in the show. Sarah Lepley plays Joanie, who has a good air of authority about her as the leader of the bunker, often trying to keep the others in check. The only unfortunate thing is that her grey wig, which is used to age her, isn’t particularly realistic, so takes a while to get used to!    Mags is played by Maxine Neil who is very good at reacting to what is going on around her. She has very clear diction, which sometimes makes her dialogue sound a little rehearsed, but I would rather this that bad diction where you cannot hear what is being said.

Towards the end of act one, we’re introduced to Connor, played by Matthew Willis, and Taylor, played by Coral Baker, the former a Marine and the latter a Marine in training. Whilst trying to fix the bunker’s equipment, Harry has inadvertently sent a distress signal to the Admiralty, meaning the nearest troop has been sent in to investigate! The energy lifts when these two characters, dressed in combat gear, come on and as the play goes into act two, much more comedy ensues.

It turns out that Connor is claustrophobic, so when the group realise they are trapped in the bunker, he starts to go a bit berserk. By the end of the show, he is sucking his thumb and asking for his mum, having regressed to childhood from being so traumatised. Matthew Willis is very funny and plays the part well. He displays just the right amount of frustration at the situation coupled with a hilarious panic that is quite believable. At one point, he wakes up and thinks the group are talking about burying him at sea, which is probably the funniest moment in the show. Coral Baker is also good, some chirpy light relief next to the crazed Connor.

Only coming on towards the end were characters Bill, played by Peter Dumenil, and Commodore Shelton, played by Deb Adams. Neither have much to get their teeth into being on for such a short period of time but add well to the line-up. Deb definitely gets a few laughs with her confusion about what she’s walking into and Peter looks great in his pyjamas and scarf with a big knitted pigeon on the front! There are many more farcical moments in act two which means the act goes much more quickly.

This is a directorial debut for Zahna Hull, who spoke to me when I arrived and was very welcoming. I think she should be commended on doing a really good job. I was also impressed by the set which was extremely detailed, and also the props which were all appropriate and on point. There is always something to look at which keeps the single set interesting. The only real problem with any of the props is when several of the portable lamps, which are used in various scenes, are placed in a row along the front of the table where action is taking place. This makes it hard to see the people sat at the table because the lights are bright and shining in your eyes. I like how the company use a voiceover at the start of the show and in the interval to tell people to turn off their phones etc, but make it sound like it is a military announcement. This adds to the overall feel of the show and gets you in the mood.

The Cast & Crew company were extremely pleasant and welcoming to me, and I could tell they all had fun up on the stage. Thank you very much for having me and well done.