Skip to main content

5th November 2018

Review: ‘Bullish’

Colette Bond reviews ‘Bullish’ at HOME as part of the Orbit Festival 2018
Review: ‘Bullish’
Photo: Milk

Having recently made its debut at the Camden People’s Theatre ‘Come As You Are’ Festival, ‘Bullish’, presented by Milk, it is now touring the UK.

The co-creation between Lucy J Skilbeck and five trans, non-binary and gender fluid performers uses Greek mythology as an apparatus to help navigate their audience through the trials and tribulations of modern gendered identity.

I am a bull. I am a bull…ish. I live between worlds. Slip between myths with dexterous leaps. Do I scare you? How about now?”

The cast took it in turns to play the young and confused Minotaur, named Asterion. The Minotaur ran away from home and into violent confrontation with the embodiment of toxic masculinity, Thesus. He is eventually saved by his half-sister, Ariadne, who assures that the expectations of others do not need to be fulfilled.

The fragmented style of Emma Bailey’s cabaret design, the use of gold horns, furry masks and pencilled on moustaches set a playful tone. This style simultaneously addressed ideas about gender fluidity whilst Al Orange’s warm lighting had the task of nimbly shifting the audience’s focus from one actor to another.

At times, it felt slightly reminiscent of my secondary school drama class; swaggering over to stage right to say an impactful line while my class mate responded with a witty retort and swaggered over to stage left. The lines needed to be faster or clearer, with less casual confidence.

Despite this, the moments when they were not acting as ensemble but as individual characters in short skits were truly effective. Amelia Stubberfield’s performance, in particular, as an enthusiastic and ignorant member of the public was both comical and disturbing.

More than the intentionally emotive scenes, I felt for the subtle humiliation portrayed in being both one thing and another in a society that doesn’t seek to understand and what’s worse, makes a novelty out of it.

The musical numbers, perhaps inserted to help pick up the pace, were lacklustre. Lucy Jane Parkinson always gave a great deal more to the audience than her cast mates. They often met her outrageous performance like unenthused back up dancers with only a hip thrust or head nod to offer.

The idea is a great one, inverting stories from history and mythology to explore notions of how gender can be constructed and then deconstructed – genius. Also, I am not undermining the deeply personal nature of the narrative, I just feel like it hasn’t been executed to its full effect. It need not rely on gimmicks to extract emotion from the audience, the story has power enough to stand on its own.


More Coverage

Sweat at The Royal Exchange review: It didn’t make me sweat (or shed blood, or tears)

Lynn Nottage’s gritty play about the interconnected lives of nine Americans, living and working in one of the poorest towns in Pennsylvania, had all of the potential and material: but, disappointingly, it just didn’t deliver what it should have

The Kite Runner review: Unflinching look generational trauma and the divided history of Afghanistan

Giles Croft’s adaptation of Khalid Hosseini’s novel movingly explores friendship, betrayal, and redemption while also educating and enlightening audiences on the tumultuous political and cultural history of Afghanistan. It is an innovative and immersive piece of theatre that remains poignant and important in today’s climate

42 Balloons review: An inspiring musical about dreams, sacrifices and a lawn chair

Charlie McCullagh’s and Evelyn Hoskins’ elevated chemistry blew us away

Urinetown: The Musical review – UMMTS doesn’t piss about

UMMTS once again fails to disappoint. Urinetown, despite its name, is a delight (GASP!)