Review: Bull

Sheffield Studio

Eleanor Matsuura as Isobel in Bull
Eleanor Matsuura as Isobel in Bull

One of the great moments in contemporary theatre never happened.

It is the moment that David Mamet sat down to turn his award-winning stage script for Glengarry Glen Ross into a movie. Mamet bolstered the slight stage script with an extra scene for the movie – a scene where Alec Baldwin enters and gives one of the greatest speeches you might ever hope to hear. He sums up capitalism, its pitfalls and the reason it exists over a few minutes of a script so sharp it’s a wonder more people didn’t leave the cinema injured when it was first released. Imagine, then, if only had Mamet included this coruscating and visceral scene in the stage script. That would have been some piece of writing.

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We don’t have to rely only on our imaginations and longer. Mike Bartlett has written the missing scene and called it Bull, his 50 minute zinger of a play that grips you by the throat as sure as Alec Baldwin does to those hapless salesmen in GGR.

Bartlett, who is establishing himself as one of British theatre’s most powerful new voices, began the gestation of this play a couple of years ago at a new work festival in Sheffield. Sheffield theatres have nurtured the story into life and it is now put thrillingly on stage in a reconfigured Studio theatre which looks like a corporate office but could easily be mistaken for a cage. The premise is so simple – three people, two jobs. Two of the people realise that together they are stronger, and work together to eliminate the weak link. This is Lord of the Flies in sharp suits for grown ups.

As the patsy Thomas, Sam Troughton has fear and bewilderment dancing behind his eyes, in the face of ice queen Isabel. When toned Tony, played by Adam Jones, enters the ring, we realise he stands no chance. A shocking denouement matches the rest of the piece for pace. This has to be one of the most uncomfortable, brilliant pieces of theatre in Yorkshire right now.

To Feb 23.