“An astonishing and prevalent piece of theatre that brings forth elitism in the workplace”

Fourth Wall Theatre’s BULL by Mike Bartlett is a “razor-sharp, vicious dark comedy” which is currently being performed at The Mark Hillery Arts Centre. Directed by Giorgia Laird with the help of Assistant Director Charlie Howe, we see the crucial confrontation between the bottom line in society with the elite. 

The inhabitation of characters within the cast was astounding. Kit Redding, playing the metaphorical bull ‘Thomas’, is illuminated to the audience from the start – the delicate elements of his character and that of the social structure within the workplace displayed clearly. The constant anxious mannerisms and fidgeting throughout the play asserts the vulnerability of Thomas and sets the tone. The audience are immediately captivated by Anna Birakos as ‘Isobel’, we see the dominance of her character stream throughout the 55 minute play. The constant eye rolling, and glamorous inspecting of Redding allows for a direct cast over the ‘Bull’. 

Tom Cain playing ‘Tony’ depicted as ‘the sheer muscular wanker’ uses a strong assertion of physicality to mark his place as the elite. With the reference of his private school background, we understand Cain’s character to be the stereotypical white male employee. Laird’s choice of movement for Cain’s character is subtle but loud – the small movements bring to the forefront the entrenched and relaxed role of the ‘matadors’ which gives exceptional volume to the disturbing provocations Tony and Isobel vocalise to Thomas. 

Carter, played by Thomas Bracewell, succeeds to establish the harsh conditions within the workplace. Carter’s use of volume and tone allows the audience to feel like they are within the same room as the characters. His brisk movement across the ring-like stage allows us to see a leader ring his ‘matadors and bull’ to a sharp and enclosed discourse. His short presence screams a thundering and authoritative command. 

Eyes are constantly pulled to Redding as we see him slowly and gradually reach his broken state. Laird and Howe’s fine-tuned direction of Redding, which encouraged him to constantly be at the top of the physical triangle, highlighted to the audience the immediate and consistent power dynamic. Birakos and Cain are constantly near each other, keeping their distance equal which brought out the partnership between them. We see constant moments of witty and diverting humour which brings a connection between actor and audience. We cannot help sympathising with Redding’s character and fear that of Birakos and Cain within this play. 

The choice of staging allowed us to see a truthful piece of theatre, where the reality of bullying within the workplace was showcased. It truly is an astonishing and prevalent piece of theatre that brings forth elitism in the workplace. Following from that, the choice of tech, facilitated by Hidayat Malik – exposes a bright and simple white light surrounding the cast, that beautifully hinges upon their acting. 

Costumes seek to incorporate the theme of red – the choice of Isobel’s red lipstick and Tony’s red tie helps the audience pick out these cruel characters. The direction of push and pull was crucial to the flow of this story. 

It shifts an audience’s mind to the basic institutions of society and allows us to understand and question the morality of human beings. A big shout out to Stage Manager – Lamesha Ruddock – and Producer – Ellie Fidler – must be acknowledged in the development of BULL. 

Altogether, this play is an absolute game changer and a must see!

‘Bull’ is playing at Mark Hillary 8th and 9th December

By Louise Coggrave 

Photo credits: Fourth Wall