Who knew one bus ride could be quite so exciting? The Oval House Theatre’s Young Writers Company have commandeered an old Route Master bus and driven it onto a square a stone’s throw away from Brixton Underground. The audience were invited to hop aboard and sit amongst the actors, and together we travelled through time with their momentous and interactive play Bussin’ It.
Whilst at first vaguely disconcerting, the idea of each audience member having a completely different view of the play was very enjoyable. I had to twist and turn as action took place on various parts of the bus and wondered whether this was intended to mirror each person’s journey through different ages within London life itself?
Filled with poignant and political questions this production explored “the relationship between choice, maturity and the restrictions imposed on us because of our age”, through different contemporary art forms such as Ben Cawley’s impeccably delivered and surprisingly animated spoken word. Clever and well written, this piece fulfils the nationwide project, ‘Truth About Youth’, funded by the Co-Operative Foundation’s aim of challenging and changing the widespread negative perceptions of young people within this promotion and celebration of young talent.
Being allowed, encouraged even, to stare so openly and listen so intently to various altercations on the top deck of a London bus in the heart of Brixton without the fear of getting caught up in an instance of negative London bus politics made me feel deliciously abuzz. So many moments in the play incited an equally vivid sense of déjà vu, in that their heroic attempts to stage real life were so convincing. Particularly realistic was Kraig Blake’s hilarious Ticket Inspector when his ever-mortified daughter Samantha (Cerise Reid) boarded the bus, with them both trying, and failing, to maintain some shred of street credibility.
Though very edgy and oh-so-cool with their accurate youth vernacular proving that street slang is an increasingly popular and, by extension, valid form of expression, it did make me question who the intended audience was. The marketing of the play and general idea behind the staging made the objective unclear. It certainly wasn’t wheelchair accessible and the fuss and hassle of following the actors upstairs, while ingenious in theory, proved slightly chaotic in practice.
I think the people who need to see this play are those who can accurately understand the severity of this situation that today’s youth may feel they are trapped in: a lack of understanding about the restrictions oppressing them so that the correct people who can make the necessary changes hear. The young people who are building our future need to feel their opinions are valued.
Looking around at fellow members of the audience this play had drawn I was dubious as to how many of them were actually able to vote.
If this project and others like it were able to generate interest within the press and invite people who work within the political world there is a fantastic chance that we wouldn’t have to watch plays like this for a bit of escapism, but for the reminder that this is our reality. It certainly has the potential if only the right people could see it.