The Bullet

Tue 6th – Sat 10th November 2012


James Bell

at 00:43 on 7th Nov 2012



Joe Penhall’s The Bullet, this year’s ADC Fresher’s Show, at times a little unsure of itself, is nevertheless a great showcase for some of Cambridge’s emerging thespian talent. The play charts Robbie’s (Nick Krol) return home from what at first appears to be a glamorous life of international travel to his parents Charles (Chris Born) and Billie (Maeve Hannah) with his new girlfriend, Carla (Sophie Grant). He finds his father struggling to accept that he has been made redundant. Born here as the Willy Loman figure, unable to comprehend his place in the world now that all his previous certainties have been wrested from him, is the real star of the performance. He achieves the perfect balance between the laddish, misogynistic Essex man entrenched in his ways and, particularly in the closing scene, the psychological frailty that underlies this. The other performances were solid, particularly Anna Rowlands as Alex, the troubled reprobate sister who is battling demons of her own, gave one of the most convincing portrayals of drunkenness I have ever seen on stage. Krol and Hannah were perhaps weakest among a strong cast, but I feel they will become more comfortable in their roles as the run progresses. As a general criticism I would suggest that the performance felt a little rushed; the strength of the writing is in the unsaid and the implied, which needed a little more time to come through. The set design was simple but effective, what one has come to expect from a production at the Corpus Playroom, and the use of recordings from Charles’ dictaphone was flawless on the part of the technical team.

In the promotional literature the play is described as a British answer to Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman. There are certainly comparisons to be made- aside from the obvious link to Willy Loman, the play addresses the clash of generations, the unreliability of memory and the difficult place for idealism in modern life with many references to the financial instability of the 1980s, which feels very applicable in the present day. However the over-arching theme that the play captures so well is an aching sense of dislocation from those around you. The actors all made wonderful use of pauses, stolen glances, gazes not returned, to convey the sheer intransmitability of feeling. Again, Born was particularly adept at this- the scene in which he sits between Robbie and Carla captured the endless fascination of one’s own mind and the boredom felt by others when one attempts to share these emotions. Family bonds here are also of the utmost importance; the question of how one generation unwitting and inescapably mirrors the next and are condemned to repeat their mistakes recurs time and time again with heart-wrenching pathos.

So this play is bleak. Some performances felt a little stilted. Nevertheless the performance was overall successful and with some fine-tuning could be worthy of Miller himself.


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