Arts Reviews

Bull @ Nottingham New Theatre

Paranoia? Never. “It’s bullying” exclaims Nick Gill as Thomas. Bull will leave you traumatised after a turmoil of emotions. In the space of 45 minutes, The New Theatre’s incredible cast will guarantee to have you laughing in hysterics and then recoiling in your seat. Bull is definitely not for the faint hearted!

We follow Thomas as he locks horns with colleagues Isobel (Rachael Baines) and Tony (Harry Bradley) in a fight for survival in the work place, with only two jobs safe from being made redundant by their intimidating boss, Carter (Ben Dillon). Poked, prodded and even hit in the face with a large red folder, Thomas is stretched to the extreme by his co-workers’ terrorising games of intimidation. With the decision resting on Carter’s shoulders, Thomas has to try and triumph over the evil of the office.

The clever use of red to give this evil a matador-ian feel stood prominent on both bullies, with nails, socks, lipstick and folders highlighting the heat, anger and passion of the play. Bull begins with humour, and the audience laughs along with Baines and Dillon with their witty insults and teasing, as they quite literally force Thomas into a corner. The small sly looks and crafty smirks in between lines allowed Tony and Isobel to come to life, deteriorating Thomas’s confidence bit by bit. Although Thomas attempts to combat this with his own jokes and insults, they fall flat. The audience is quick to realise that this is far from a simple game of “banter”. In the next moment, created through Gill’s impeccable acting, pain and turmoil of uncomfortable emotions takes hold of the stage.

“Bull is most definitely taking theatre by the horns in this uncomfortable but consuming spectacle”

Recoiling further and further off stage, Thomas begins to enter a state of uproar created by these two ‘bulls’. Being reduced into a spitting, crying and shouting state of a man, you will find yourself struggling to know where to look through the pain and difficulty of these scenes; caused by Nick Gill’s believability as Thomas. The powerful Isobel takes centre of the stage, justifying all her actions: “If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else doing it to you” and needing to bring Thomas down in order to save the business from a weak link. With her dominant rant forming into a crescendo, this bully tears Thomas into shreds, quivering on the edge of the stage. The actor’s characterisation is spot on as even I left in a state of disturbance.

In this way, Ollie Shortt’s ingenious set construction also has to be applauded. The use of the small squared stage is intimate, and at times, terrifying for the audience who are sucked into this modern representation of the workplace. The simple use of two chairs on the edge of the stage are used for Tony and Isobel to watch like a mirror of the audience, as Carter finally ends any hope Thomas  has. With all characters consistently swapping from corner to corner and spinning round in circular motions, the audience becomes a spectator in a real bull-fight, spiralling out of control.

An unmissable play, with actors that deserve to be on the larger stages of this world in the future. “STAND UP FOR YOURSELF” Thomas is told, yet Gill presents how difficult that truly is with predators such as Dillon, Baines and Bradley on the prowl. Bull is most definitely taking theatre by the horns in this uncomfortable but consuming spectacle.


Jessica Rushton

‘Bull’ is playing at The New Theatre, Nottingham until Saturday 27th February. For more information, see here

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One Comment
  • Max
    27 February 2016 at 19:12
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    You claimed the actor Dillon and Baines tormented the character Thomas, it was Bradley and Baines. Not Dillon.

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