Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: 'Bump' at the Tristan Bates Theatre, 31st July 2017

Bump! reviewed by David James

Rating: 4 Stars

Bump! is a romantic comedy executed with clockwork precision. Scored by a predominantly Daft Punk soundtrack, the show consists of two extremely talented physical performers running rings around one another. Underneath is a cerebral thematic bedrock of quantum entanglement: the bizarre scientific phenomenon in which two linked particles influence each other despite being geographically separated.

Our star crossed lovers are spiky teacher Eliana (Oriana Charles) and gaming nerd Ian (Andrew Hollingworth, also the show's writer). They meet after the titular 'bump', when their cars crash into one another in traffic. While exchanging numbers their eyes meet and, after several glasses of rosé in a nearby Wetherspoons, they're between the sheets. Eliana thinks the experience was alright - Ian rates it as MINDBLOWING.

We quickly realise that the Ian is a little bit more into Eliana than she is into him - especially after multiple texts to her phone go unanswered. Despite their immediate physical attraction and some obvious chemistry, are they really a match? Eliana is materialistic, judging Ian by the BMW he drives (secretly on loan from his brother) and Ian is a deeply romantically unrealistic. Like entangled particles, they spend much of the show in different locations yet still occupying the same space. But will they ever actually couple up?

Bump! is very easy to like. Oriana Charles and Andrew Hollingworth positively bristle with charisma: able to cartoonishly stretch their characters without ever sacrificing emotional plausibility. Leaving aside all the thematic/narrative elements, they're just dead fun to watch. Much of the show relies on precise timings with the soundtrack - books snapping shut,  the swatting of a fly or the synchronised slamming down of smartphones. This is all executed with a casual finesse obviously borne of countless hours of blood, sweat and tears in rehearsals - all the effort definitely worth it.

Highlights are the pair getting ready for sex. Him in her en suite bathroom having a last minute swill of mouthwash, before passing the bottle 'through' the wall to her, where it becomes a bottle of Smirnoff, or the delightful introduction where their getting ready for work routines crisscross over each other. It makes the particle entanglement stuff genuinely relevant, impressive given that the moment most shows begin talking about quantum physics coincides with the moment they shove their head up their own arse.

The only real sour note is a late narrative twist. Spoiler alert: Eliana realises she's gotten pregnant after their first encounter. On one hand, this nicely contextualises her standoffishness to Ian, making it perfectly understandable why she's standoffish, as she works out how (or if) to tell him. On the other, Ian's reaction to the news is a bit weird, wittering on about quantum physics and planning out a family life to the (understandably) freaked out Eliana. 

It's difficult to get over her observation that they barely know one another and that starting a family under these circumstances is unlikely to work out well. But Bump! is perhaps a little too optimistic, resulting in a cliched scene where Eliana has a last minute change of heart just before her abortion. I like a happy ending as much as the next person, but the way the show ends just didn't feel entirely plausible.

Fortunately, it's all too easy to forgive Bump! for not quite sticking the landing. It's undeniably entertaining theatre by two insanely talented individuals that had me smiling throughout. The show even gave me the giggles with an incredibly silly gag where Ian mistook Eliana's bra for his tie. For that alone, it goes in my good books. 

Bump! is at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 5 August. Details here.

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