An absurdist play with socio-political undertones and potential, Fear No Colours’ Bucket Men creates an uncanny world that could go even weirder.
The world of Bucket Men is white, sterile, uncannily ordered. There are two white chairs around a white table, with a white bathtub covered by a white nylon sheet on one side, a white cupboard and a white cistern on the other. There’s also a white canvas near a white switch and it depicts a green plant, the only coloured element of the small and claustrophobic set. Two unnamed male characters enter (wearing white overalls) and we discover that this is their work place: we are not sure what they do, but they do it every day and they must always do it in the same way. They must “stick to the script”.
It all seems like a boring (albeit slightly weird) day at work: they make tea, talk about respective families, one complains about the other’s constant lateness while the latter tells absurd anecdotes on how he was delayed by unexpected accidents. Then they get to work and the whole thing gets even more absurd: the titular bucket is filled with water, which is then poured over a woman who lies unconscious in the now uncovered bathtub. The workers point an electric fan at her for a couple of minutes, then they cover her up again and set everything up as the pre-set. And this routine is intended to be repeated over and over again until it all falls apart, and one of the workers ends up being unconscious in the tub.
Now, I love a weird show, I do. And I think Bucket Men as a text has a lot of potential. It could be interpreted as socio-political commentary, where nameless workers are part of a well-oiled machine and are safe as long as they don’t start questioning the system, or become too self-aware. Director and writer Samuel Skoog manages to create a world that is halfway between 1984 and Funny Games, where people are so desensitized, and the environment is so clinical, that nothing really shocks them anymore.
Unfortunately though, I do believe the production could have pushed the absurdist elements a lot further. Bucket Men, despite being strong at its peak moments, was a bit flat throughout most of the show and ended up in a monotonous rhythm that lacked much further ‘surprise’ factor. I was also a bit confused as to whether there was significance in the unconscious ‘bath character’ being a young non-white woman and how this related to the play’s socio-political commentary – but I later found out that the “victim” is played by a different person every day. If the purpose of the play’s to create a universe where everyone is the same (white and conformist in their dress/etc), then obviously things like gender and race stand out even more.
I was expecting a lot from Bucket Men, which didn’t exactly disappoint but definitely left me wanting more. I just wish Fear No Colours had gone even further with it; if anything, I wanted it to be even weirder.