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Bang Bang Bang by Stella Feehily at Bolton Octagon

Published by: Caroline May on 8th Sep 2011 | View all blogs by Caroline May

The new season at Bolton opens with a co-production between the Octagon and Out of Joint.  Stella Feehily’s latest play is a variation on a theme she explored in O Go My Man (seen here five years ago) – idealistic westerners (charity workers, journalists, medics) whose well-intentioned involvement with the developing world leads to the disintegration of their own lives back home.

Human rights defender Sadhbh (Orla Fitzgerald) has spent her whole career working abroad on projects for NGOs, but as she approaches thirty perhaps it’s time to listen to her partner Stephen (Dan Fredenburgh) who has burnt out, taken the corporate shilling, and now wants a settled family life. Added to the mix are Sadhbh’s colleague Bibi (Frances Ashman), abandoning life on the front-line for a safe desk job in New York, and naïve young intern Mathilde (Julie Dray) who’s about to go on her first trip to the Congo.

Bang Bang Bang is a play of two halves. The dramatic opening scene (a siege of the aid workers’ compound in the Congo) turns out to be a flash-forward, and Sadhbh’s unsettled domestic situation in London is inter-cut with encounters with a war lord and one of his victims in Africa, but even dislocations of time and place can’t get over the expositional nature of the first part.

Only after the interval does Feehily return to her strongest suits: sharply observed portraits of the metropolitan middle-classes and laugh-out-loud dialogue.  The aid workers blank out the terrible things they see by day with boozy parties at night which are a mirror image of their hedonistic London lifestyles, and we realise that however well-intentioned they are or politically correct their language they‘re little more than disaster tourists embedded in their own cultural bubble.  The scene at the R&R where cynical foreign correspondent Ronan (Paul Hickey) and callow wannabe photo journalist Vin (Jack Farthing) are trying to advance their careers via seduction, whiskey and weed is hilarious, with a real sense that the writer, the play and the actors have found their mojo at last.

The legendary Max Stafford-Clark directs breezily, and Miriam Nabarro’s simple design allows for speedy scene changes, but as a political drama about westerners in Africa Bang Bang Bang doesn’t hold a candle to Out of Joint’s production of The Overwhelming in 2006.

Bang Bang Bang is on at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton  until Saturday 17 September 2011

Tickets: from £9.50

Performances Mon-Sat Eves @ 7.30

Matinees @ 2pm: Wed 7, Wed 14, Sat 17

Box Office: 01204 520661



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