Theatre503, Battersea, London (****)

© David Monteith-Hodge, Clive (Clive Keene), Floss (Florence Roberts)

© David Monteith-Hodge, Clive (Clive Keene), Floss (Florence Roberts)

© David Monteith-Hodge, Ana (Roxana Lupu)

© David Monteith-Hodge, Ana (Roxana Lupu)

It could happen to anyone. You’re walking down a street and suddenly, whoosh, the world changes. A bomb goes off – or a plane falls from the sky. And nothing is ever the same again.

How people cope under such circumstances is the subject of Stuart Slade’s second full length play, a scabrous study in Londoncentric responses under pressure.

Slade works regularly with director Dan Pick and producing company Kuleshov. Together with a group of actors, BU21 is the product of those relationships and by any standards, is a gritty, witty but disturbing portrait. Indeed, were Christopher Marlowe lurking somewhere in Deptford today, I’d wager he’d take a peek at this and like what he sees.

For as a futuristic fantasy – set in July 2016 – it shows the good, the bad and the very ugly responding to a terrorist attack – a surface to air missile has been fired at a plane over west London and fallen to earth in Fulham – with all the variety and non-pc responses you’d expect of people caught up in such an incident.

In a series of interleaving monologues, six characters describe the effect of the explosion on them and its aftermath in a support group.

© David Monteith-Hodge, Thalissa (Thalissa Teixeira)

© David Monteith-Hodge, Thalissa (Thalissa Teixeira)

Thalissa has seen her mother halved in two walking down New King’s Road in Chelsea; Ana, badly burned by aviation fuel; Clive, a Muslim whose father drops out of the sky into Florence’s garden; Graham, a lorry driver just near enough to the accident to take advantage, and Alex, a young hedge fund manager who for cynicism and amorality would fit neatly into any Jacobean drama.

© David Monteith-Hodge, Alex (Alex Forsyth), Graham (Graham O'Mara)

© David Monteith-Hodge, Alex (Alex Forsyth), Graham (Graham O’Mara)

Alex is the villain of the piece by virtue of his ability to say the unsayeable. Everybody’s darker, shadow side, as played by Alex Forsyth, he is the play’s comic masterpiece in dialogue which is itself a linguistic map of modern London, ripped apart by slang and expletives. And often very funny.

Theatre503 prides itself on its putting the mirror up to our society. Brilliantly, irreverently drawn by Slade and delivered by his hand picked cast, one can only hope this vivid, searing, Londoncentric black comedy does not find itself replicated for real this summer!

BU21 runs at Theatre503 to Apr 9, 2016

Review first published in Reviewsgate, March 2016 and slightly amended here.

By Stuart Slade

Alex: Alex Forsyth
Ana: Roxana Lupu
Clive: Clive Keene
Floss: Florence Roberts
Graham: Graham O’Mara
Thalissa: Thalissa Teixeira

Director: Dan Pick

Presented by Theatre503 and Kuleshov Theatre