I went to see Harm at Bush Theatre, the first piece of live theatre I had seen since Overflow at Bush Theatre back in December.
The bar is open but ordering has to be done from the tables in the other room. Entrance to the theatre is controlled through 3 portals, as done previously, with the audience arranged in a socially-distanced way. The show is in the main auditorium of the Holloway Theatre, which has been oriented with seating blocks on 3 sides of the stage area.
The show is a 70 minute monologue by “Woman”, who identifies herself at the start as 39 years old, working in an estate agents office in south London. The stage contains a large toy rabbit and a chair, and she steps on as the final announcements are made about mask-wearing and smartphones etc.
The play concerns Woman in her solitary life and deadening employment, and how she enters an obsessive on-line stalking relationship with an “Instagram influencer” she has to show around a property in West Norwood. As you will realise, this is all set pre-lockdown, and in some ways it seems to evoke a world that has now passed away, like the Last Season of ’39. Does anyone really care about “influencers” anymore? Didn’t they all have to get proper jobs last July or something? Although there’s a reference to Facebook being passe, the concentration on social media feels rather like last decade’s big problem. A few other moments make me wonder how old the script might be – obviously, the detail that West Norwood is desirable (we were told that when we moved here 3 years ago), and also when Woman has trouble getting a bus ride because “my Oyster is dead” – why not use a bank card? She hadn’t lost her job at that point. Her boss Barry also sounds a bit like Dapper Laughs – remember him?
Music and lighting varied subtly, and the single giant prop of the rabbit was shifted around and finally deployed for the big disintegration. There’s lots of background detail of Woman’s life slowly fed in to suggest, but never insist on, some trauma involving her dad that may have caused problems with forming equal and non-manipulative relationships.
It’s different seeing the obsessive relationship from the sociopath’s side of the story (“Sadbitch11”). Previously at the Bush I’ve seen plays about a victim of a stalker (Baby Reindeer) and a woman whose mental health is deteriorating in a bad relationship (Collapsible) and about obsessive people on the internet (The Believers Are But Brothers) and about a woman who works in an estate agents (Ramona Tells Jim) so this was like a megamix of all those themes.
All in all, I think you should all see this play, just to do your patriotic duty to jolly well get Britain back on its feet.