Review: The Bus Stop, Traverse Theatre
3.0Overall Score

The Bus Stop centres around the story of Jack, a young wheelchair user who is the victim of a cruel disability hate crime. The fallout causes Jack immense stress as he wrestles over the choice of whether to report it or not, or even to tell his mum, Jenny. She is herself dealing with a recent cancer diagnosis and early bouts of chemotherapy. As both characters try to hide their pain from each other, their relationship is threatened. 

This script is currently in the rehearsed reading stage, being produced as part of the Traverse Theatre Online Festival, by Lung Ha Theatre Company (Scotland’s leading theatre company for people with learning disabilities). It’s a debut from writer Gavin Yule, who also plays Jack in the reading (alongside Emma McCaffrey, Ryan Duncan, and Scott Davidson). The Bus Stop is unfortunately based on a true story, with Yule drawing on his own experiences to form the play.

Despite only being in the rehearsed reading stage, The Bus Stop allows some of its creatives to shine. Particular praise goes to McCaffery for her portrayal of Jenny. It’s an excellent reading that contains a swirling of emotions, accurately capturing the mindset of her character, and you can hear the anxiety in Jenny’s voice as she frets over Jack, and how he will cope if she dies. It’s a very accomplished and emotionally stirring performance – not an easy thing to achieve when acting on Zoom.

Yule’s writing is also skilful. There’s an undercurrent of cruelty that permeates through the piece – all of the characters seem to be close to experiencing, or witnessing, prejudice and discrimination of some kind. This reflects one of the key themes of The Bus Stop – how rife disability hate crimes are in society – and it’s very neatly achieved by Yule considering this is his first work. He shows us authentic experiences of those with learning disabilities and access requirements. 

Perhaps because of this success, the beginning and the end of the show is less effective; these are meta bookends that address the audience directly. They are playful and show a sense of fun in Yule’s writing, but the message behind them – asking us to question our attitudes towards disability and our response if we witnessed a hate crime – has already been achieved through the themes of the story. It may have been a more streamlined piece without these appeals to the audience, but these are natural and understandable missteps for a developing writer. 

There are a few moments when it’s difficult to hear the dialogue due to poor audio quality. These are unavoidable production challenges that come while working with Zoom, but it’s still a shame that some of the words get lost.

The Bus Stop is an accomplished and earnest account of a real-life event, that Yule and Lung Ha have reshaped into an entertaining and instructive story. Hopefully, they can continue developing the work and perform it to in-person audiences in the future.

The Bus Stop is playing online as part of the Traverse Theatre Online Festival until 8 December, for more information and tickets visit the Traverse Theatre website.