Review West End

Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses – Trafalgar Studios

lunch and the bow of ulysses

It’s a gloomy realisation that a relationship can dissolve over the years, only now to be defined by the technological hold you have over each other – ‘you need me, how else would you work Sky.’

Steven Berkoff beautifully depicts the relationship of a couple over the span of twenty years in his two single-act plays. Director Nigel Harman has smooshed them together and they are performed consecutively, beginning with a chance meeting on designer Lee Newby’s inspired seaside pier.

Shaun Dooley and Emily Bruni’s first encounter is full of pent-up passion, desire and lust. He literally foams at the mouth at the thought of touching her, in a spitting, fizzing, outpouring of male desire. Dooley launches into a spectacular energetic physical performance and you wince in his humiliation, as a reserved Bruni struggles to free herself from his clinch – but perhaps there is some attraction to the excitement of his lust.

 lunch and the bow of ulysses

Years later the couple return to the pier, now bitter and cold, exchanging taunts of disappointment and regret through mini monologues. It’s a stark contrast to the energy and physicality of the first play and has progressed into a quiet acceptance of their unhappy lives. In their exchanges Berkoff offers an interesting insight to the role of a man and woman in a relationship – the man focusing on the physical longing, mourning his ‘fecundity’ where as the woman claims she saved his life. He sought to fill his emptiness with sex and she saw that his void was deeper and offered him heart and mind.

I was captivated by the poetic richness of Steven Berkoff’s dialogue. There’s an eloquence and a thoughtfulness to his observations, told through dense metaphors, prose and a splash of T.S. Eliot. It’s easy to get swept up in the elegant descriptions expertly delivered by Dooley and Bruni, as they express the longing, emptiness, regret and lost dreams of an enduring couple. Their undeniable chemistry beams with a natural ease and provides a heartfelt performance by both cast members.

However it’s the brilliant interwoven humour throughout the play that really brings this production to life. It’s witty, biting and hilariously funny. It’s very honest and much of the humour is a result from seeing parallels in ourselves and a very true-to-life account. It’s an articulate piece and through Harman’s slick direction and superb performances by Dooley and Bruni it allows for a captivating evening, and the opportunity to experience this fine piece work from an esteemed playwright.

Lunch and The Bow of Ulysses runs until 5th November at Trafalgar Studio 2

Read my Q&A with Shaun Dooley and Emily Bruni here.

(Photo courtesy of Marc Brenner)

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