Bullish – Camden People’s Theatre, London

Writer and Director: Lucy J Skilbeck
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott

“I am the Minotaur, who are you”, so echoes the rallying cry at the end of Milk Presents’ new show
Bullish which uses the famous Greek myth to examine the pressures and expectation of gender
identity. Showing as part of the Camden People’s Theatre’s Come as You Are Festival, which opens
with this innovative and uplifting 65-minute show.

tell-us-block_editedFollowing an argument with their mum, Minotaur Asterian runs off into the night confused about who they’re supposed to be. After meeting the mysterious builder of the labyrinth Daedalus and finding out how they were born from Poseidon, the Minotaur enters the inescapable maze. With Theseus on his way, is their destiny predetermined or can everyone accept new ways to live?

has appropriated the famous Greek myth and used it to fashion a spot-on discussion of gender and self-acceptance, employing various dramatic devices including straightforward drama, flashback and more general conversational interludes. Using multiple narrators playing one character means Bullish is at once an intimate story of one person’s struggle in a world that demands compliance with accepted norms, but also has universal application to whatever characteristic or experience that
makes you different to anyone else.

The story is told with a warmth and vibrancy that keeps the audience engaged and peppered with a  series of unexpectedly entertaining song and dance numbers. Each of the five cast members is given  a turn, whether it be odd-job man Daedalus belting out a power ballad about his labyrinth, Poseidon’s rap or Ariadne insisting her song “won’t pass go or pass the Bechdel Test” each becomes more comic than the last. Best among them is a hilarious manly disco number for Theseus, an excellent Adam Robertson, who insists his looks, physique and aggressive demeanour prove he’s all man, while his passion for kale crisps implies he’s more hipster than hero.

The other cast members, Krishna Istha, Cairo Nevitt, Lucy Jane Parkinson and Amelia Stubberfield rotate the role of the Minotaur while ensuring they are a consistent character and the audience is able to invest in their journey of self-discovery. Writer Lucy J. Skilbeck doesn’t shy away from the doubts and worries that affect those who identify as Trans, non-binary and gender fluid, but sends a clear message that really there’s no decision to be made.

As Director, Skilbeck keeps things moving swiftly, and while the show’s constant refrain of ‘it doesn’t make much sense’ applies more to some of the conversational sections interspersed between episodes of The Minotaur’s tale, covering topics ranging from the characteristics of the bull, enjoying DIY and having children, Skilbeck has created a fluid and fast-paced show packed with emotional depth and resonance.

Joshua Pharo’s lighting design effectively creates a range of settings, while cutting smoothly between the main story and the abstract sections creating moments of insight during the more wistful descriptions later in the show. Bullish cleverly uses the mythological structure to examine the mental labyrinths people create for themselves, and not being afraid of the monster, even if you think it’s you, is the only way to escape.

Runs until 30 September 2017 | Image: Ben Millar Cole

Review Overview

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Innovative and uplifting

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