DramaLondonReviewVAULT Festival

Bin Juice – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

Writer: Cat Kolubayev

Director: Anastasia Bruce-Jones

Creating an entire and credible new world in under an hour is no easy task, convincing an audience not only to invest in the lives, dramas and dilemmas of the characters but also to buy into their context takes considerable thought. The popularity of anthology series such as Inside No 9 and Black Mirror have proven that in the right hands short form drama can be explosive. Bin Juice writer Cat Kolubayev is well on the way with an accomplished and intriguing 50-minute piece at the Vault Festival.

Belinda known as “Barney” is being interviewed for a job in refuse by Francine and Marla, but this is no ordinary firm. As the women dig deeper into each other’s personalities, lies are exposed on all sides while somewhere the mysterious “boss” is listening in. Is Belinda right for the job, what is everyone hiding and who are the Sarcastic Waste Disposal Company?

One of the most impressive aspects of Kolubayev’s play is how convincingly the tone of unease is developed. Instantly, there is something not quite normal about this scenario and the excessive aggression of the people in what should be a pleasant conversation. There are tones of Beckett, Kafka and Pinter in this dark absurdist creation, given shape across the show as hints emerge of a bigger system in which these characters work, one ruled by unseen hands leaving them in a limbo state with only each other for company and from which recruitment is the only release.

Kolubayev achieves this effect across four scenes using each to explore a fluctuating powerplay between interviewers and candidate as well as between colleagues. Keep an eye on the timelines because Scene Two is purposefully out of sequence, allowing director Anastasia Bruce-Jones to create a mirror arrangement with the staging of Scenes One and Three that gives the audience a new perspective on what we have seen.

Bin Juice only begins to run out of steam towards the end with a conclusion that while predictable could be better seeded in a longer final section. In some ways it is a perfectly balanced outcome to the play, reflecting the cyclical nature of birth, death and disposal with which Kolubayev is especially interested, it deserves a little more time to explore the dynamic of the new relationship before the final revelation.

In an enjoyable comic performance, Adeline Waby is a forceful and intimidating Francine, often aggressive and determined she is the compliant and unquestioning face of the SWDC who enjoys her leadership role. Still as the conversations unfold, Waby suggests a hint of doubt beneath this implacable exterior, and we want to know more about what drives her.

Madison Clare’s Marla is more of a vacant henchman initially, agreeing with her boss with little to contribute but Clare introduces far more personality as more of Marla’s background is revealed and camaraderie eventually develops with Belinda. Helena Antoniou as Barney/Belinda has plenty of ambiguity, uncertain and irritated by the oddity of the interview process but equally unwilling to concede. There is also a nod to class division as education and status make her interactions with the contrasting experience of Francine so full.

There is a lot of fascinating strands in Bin Juice and Kolubayev resists temptation to tie them all up neatly so plenty of loose ends are left to tantalise the audience – why is Belinda interested in etymology, why is everyone lying about who they are and how did this society come into being? With only 50-minutes to play with, Bin Juice leaves you wanting to know so much more about this place, its people and what it all means. It’s almost satisfying that we will never know.

Runs until 15 March 2020

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Tantalising

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