15 March 2016

Student production of Bull by Mike Bartlett

Sixth Form play focuses on the intriguing theme of bullying in the workplace

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One of the highlights of the Lent term was the student-initiated play Bull, by Mike Bartlett, produced and performed by a group of Sixth Formers.

The play is set in an office where three colleagues are anxiously waiting for their boss, knowing that one of them is about to be fired. It focuses on the intriguing theme of bullying in the workplace, and the unpleasant situation has the audience constantly on edge.

The naivety and vulnerability of the prey, Samantha, brilliantly captured by Clare Cooke, created great empathy. The audience felt instant sympathy for Samantha and were eager for her to succeed, but it soon became apparent that this was unlikely.

Throughout the course of the play the other two colleagues align with each other in order to crush Samantha; it is in essence, survival of the fittest. The passive-aggressive Isabel, portrayed by Kate Arkwright, was wonderfully venomous and a truly entertaining character to watch.

The gripping elegance in which Isabel and Tony (Anastasia Spiridonova) goad Samantha to the point of explosion is hauntingly painful and Anastasia’s portrayal of Tony added an evil humorous twist as the tension increases. The status immediately shifts when the boss, Carter (Vratko Himic), enters the room, the atmosphere becoming awkward as Samantha continues to embarrass herself.

Although her innocence is clear to the audience it is apparent that all Carter sees is unprofessionalism. Vratko highlighted his superiority whilst capturing Carter’s carefree attitude. To Carter, Samantha seems not particularly memorable, and he constantly forgets her name; this, only increasing her stress, builds up to the climax of the play where she is inevitably fired.

It is appalling how Tony and Isabel clearly revel in Samantha’s humiliation. The audience felt a huge amount of contempt towards these malicious characters.

However, I was particularly impressed by Kate’s exit: as Isabel goes to leave, a slight flash of guilt passes over her eyes, hinting to some deeper morals beneath her business-like exterior.

The play comes to a dramatic close as Samantha lies in tears on the floor of the office, an innocent victim of unacceptably horrific bullying. This production was very clever and extremely well done; a huge amount of commitment goes into creating a student-led piece but it clearly paid off as the audience were completely enthralled by the performance.

Molly Marr-Johnson

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