Cherwell

Smashing Entertainment

Bash is a series of three short pieces that show us people who have been pushed over familiar boundaries. Labute’s vision is a bleak one, which lets us glimpse civilization with its pristine, attractive surface scratched away as the protagonists search for a catharsis to solve their problems. The plays explore the memories and obsessions that make people tick and how easy it can be to flip and destroy what is precious. The first play is the monologue of a travelling salesman, talking to a  girl in his hotel room. The monologue setting replaces this silent listener with the audience, itself becoming increasingly engaged in the salesman’s stories of the petty concerns at work that come to a troubled crescendo in the tale of the accidental death of his baby daughter. The salesman’s search for peace is borne by the audience until his mundane, distracted patter is broken by the revelation “the little thing died in our bed, tangling herself in the blankets.” The second play resumes an easy, casual style in the dialogue of a society couple, which jars effectively with the limbo created at the end of the first play. Their chit-chat is akin to the small talk of plays like The Glass Menagerie – the amusing social observation of the mundane, such as the man’s failure to mention all the make-up, clothes and furnishing which his companion goes to such great lengths to describe. Once more, the quaint illusion of normality is shattered when the young man finishes his perfect night dancing at the plaza by beating up “faggots” in public lavatories, “men old enough to be fathers clutching at one another like Romeo and Juliet.”The final monologue deals with a young woman talking to the police in an Arizona station. She discusses the few moments that sparkled in her adolescence – trips to Chicago and words of wisdom from her teacher. It is only gradually that we see the connection between these events as she discusses her love for this teacher at the age of thirteen and a history of kisses stolen in cars at night or in the classroom. As the audience has come to expect, this history too is faced by the caustic brutality that had been seen in the previous two plays.Bash is not an experience to cheer you up, but it is extremely effective. The performances are excellent. The periodic, frenetic movement of hands and eyes by the actors does much to change the pace of these plays, which are heavily reliant on the ability suddenly to accelerate towards the destruction of any safe or ordinary impression of the protagonists. Bash is aptly named: it endeavours to shatter social preconceptions and offers no catharsis to its audience. It deliberately leaves you asking for a more satisfying, fulfilling explanation for the violent actions of the protagonists. “Things don’t get worked out, they get worked through.” A thoughtprovoking start to the term and a rare first week treat.
Archive: 0th week HT 2004