15 April 2019

Nathan Dunn reflects on post-uni friends

Bost-Uni Plues was born almost a year to the day it burst onto the scene here at NSDF '19. Armed with a handful of props, three black boxes and plenty of make-up, the cast returned to the stage of Liverpool John Moore's University Drama’s primary venue for the first time since graduating. I’m fortunate enough to know Ugly Bucket. The company graduated my course the year before I did, which naturally made this show (particularly on its debut performance) extra special. But extra is the imperative word here – even beyond my amusement at knowing the people behind the voices and the make-up, beyond the close proximity of their experience to my own, I knew this show had something special. This is the fifth time I’ve seen this show, and currently it’s the only stage show I’ve seen that I firmly believe I will never get bored of.

It’s easy to applaud your friends. Some would argue it’s etiquette, but when faced with the choice between patronising compassion and constructive criticism, I’ve found it favourable to side with the latter. Fortunately, no such decision had to be made – because outside my affiliation with the people behind Bost-Uni Plues I can honestly and proudly sing its praises.

Objectively, the piece is a well-oiled machine. Slick, swift and packing a punch, the task of guiding us seamlessly from sixth form results day to university graduation and beyond is a tricky yet handled expertly. A timeline with so many endings is navigated as if there were none. Physically impressive and structurally robust, the arc of the piece is consequentially triumphant. This journey is pattered with some stellar comedic sequences that are effervescently self-aware and refined. They get away with trying to be funny because their role as clowns demands that, and their willingness to make themselves vulnerable through jerking routines wins us over from the get-go.

Like all work, it has its flaws – some of the humour dies too early than perhaps the performers would like. Perfect? No – but, (whilst still aware of my situational bias from witnessing its development) it’s the closest to maximising its potential as a show could ever wish to be. I’ve determinedly attempted to scrape my barrel of critical cynicism to pick out more flaws, but my drawing of blanks suggests more about the quality of the performance than my inability to critique (I hope).

My final commendation must fall to the talented cast and crew. Grace Gallagher, Angelina Cliff and Canice Ward spun magic from the dust of a desolate post-grad existence with their electric and vibrant devising work, underscored with beautiful intensity by Duncan Gallagher’s techy tracks. A nod must also be made to Carl Fowler, who originally co-created the show and performed in the first shows. All of these individuals gave their all in the articulation of the awkward and uneasy reality of change, yet most importantly they made passionate attempts to reach out and reassure people about the real world revelations they became accustomed to. Thank you for teaching us to smile when we don’t feel like it, and then making sure we do.

@noffmag[email protected]

Photo credit: Beatrice Debney