Bread & Roses Theatre, London – until 19 May 2018
Most people are familiar with the saying (which was also sung by the Eurythmics): “Behind every great man there had to be a great woman.” This is especially true in Lydia Rynne’s play The Buzz, which is directed by Velenzia Spearpoint. Set in the familiar world of pop stars and social media, we find singer Josh (Andrew Umerah) at home in his penthouse flat. His lyricist, publicist and girlfriend, Kyla (Sassy Clyde) is also present, looking over the photos of the previous night’s red carpet event and noticing that if she were present at all in the photos, it would just be her ‘elbow’.
Still wide awake while Josh is getting some beauty sleep, Kyla receives a visit from her younger brother Nate (Gabriel Cagan). Initially apprehensive at his presence, she soon relaxes once they start imbibing and catch up over old times. However, when his true purpose for being there is exposed, it threatens to undo not only everything she thinks she knows, but possibly her ‘career’ too, such as it is…
Before the play progresses to the bigger themes in the second half, Lynne uses the drinking session to find what makes the siblings tick and explore their respective backstories. While Kyla’s efforts as a lyricist and publicist are unappreciated by Josh and the public at large, Nate reminds her that he was the one who nursed their dying mother during her last days, while Kyla was noticeably absent. This certainly goes against the grain of conventional gender roles in other plays and society, as well posing the question of what the mother/daughter relationship was really like.
Last year, Broken Silence Theatre’s Tremors raised the question of what you would do if you knew that a member of your family was involved with a counterculture sect who do more than just talk… Similarly, in The Buzz, the arrival of Nate and Cordelia (Hannah Duffy) cranks up the stakes, as what begins as a satire-cum-family drama veers into Death and the Maiden territory, with the past is brought to account.
The accusations and revelations that come to the light in the play are very pertinent in the post-#MeToo landscape, but rather than be didactic, The Buzz highlights how the media and the courts of law would interpret certain actions, and thus the ‘grey area’ that they sit within. Of course, knowing how certain characters behaved at the beginning of the play gives an indication of what really happened. Even so, the play shows the double-edged nature of exposing ‘the truth’ – with some people coming from it stronger and more resilient than they were before, while for others the ‘shame’ is too much to bear.
Under Spearpoint’s deft direction, The Buzz‘s has the right balance between moments of black humour, and room for the characters to ‘breathe’ and respond naturally. In the case of Clyde, this is arguably her most rounded performance at the Bread & Roses to date.