Lily Shahmoon’s When The Bang Comes certainly provided a bang of emotions, shock and engagement from the audience. Staged in Tutu’s Room in the Macadam Building at King’s College London, relevant and pressing issues raised over relationships, marriage, deceit, time and the everlasting battle between religion and science captivated the audience.
Scientist, Cliff, is married to housewife, Emily, who is prone to drink and spends much of her time with housekeeper Kirsty. A ‘clock’ has appeared in the sky, counting down the days before the world ends; the issue here is while the play starts at 91 days, it unexpectedly shifts to 7. The Lambs are the enemy, representing a religious cult who destroy Cliff’s laboratory and dismiss the clock’s existence, challenging religious belief over science. The affair and miscarriage arisen from the breakdown in Cliff and Emily’s marriage are suddenly raised and addressed. The use of five actors, at first, can be seen as too simple and minimal. However, such simplicity rather underlines that the play’s message is more important; to address real issues of human behaviour and humankind by using a fictional setting.
An urban London landscape and the renowned OXO Tower loomed in the background of the stage as the evening snow started to settle. Prior to the show, Tutu’s Room was dimly lit with tones of neon red to compliment the similar colours of the neon-branded OXO Tower in the background. The impression was certainly mysterious and almost insidious, which suited the nature of the play. The layout was simple: a red sofa; a table; a small drink’s bar and a few trinkets. The props, however, were useful to highlight important areas of Cliff and Emily’s home where they relax, communicate, argue sporadically and therefore resolve to alcohol. The audience are voyeurs to the unseen domestic marriage.
Lauren Bennett plays Emily, the stereotypical drunk, bitter housewife dwelling on the affair between her husband, Cliff (Nick Bates), and her childhood best friend, Karen (Shin Hui Lee). Emily demands attention from Cliff but dismisses it when he attempts affection and communication. The couple crave one another physically and emotionally but at the wrong time, linking to the overall issue of the play; how can we determine the quality of time when there is not much left of it?
Emily plays the protagonist, so it seems the audience must side and sympathise with her feelings of loneliness and spite towards Karen. Shahmoon, however, successfully challenges this automatic siding with the protagonist as we learn that Cliff is sexually and emotionally unsatisfied with Emily as a result of her refusing to engage in his needs. The relationship is brutal, selfish but ultimately realistic as Emily raises controversial issues over being childless and therefore turning ‘selfish’, or refusing to confront Cliff about his affair out of fear of being alone. The nature of relationships is concluded as purely selfish and sexually motivated which is hard to disagree with.
While a few errors can be expected in a first performance, the only one to play out was that the ‘clock’ was temporarily broken. Luckily, this was more humorous than disastrous and showed a willing audience in addition to a positive, light-hearted cast. Richard Elliot played the younger version of Cliff but physically resembled the opposite of older Cliff. While this was endearing, I imagine that certain audience members would struggle to understand his role in the play on first impression. Kirsty and Karen’s roles should not go unnoticed; I was convinced by their mannerisms, facial expressions, physical actions and vocal expressions the most.
All in all, a lot is offered to enjoy and learn from this play. On one hand, it shows the importance of active communication over passive. On the other hand, it emphasises that time is a manmade concept, and in relation to death, we should not rely on it to determine the quality of life.