Writer: Cathy Crabb
Director: Ben Power
Reviewer: Iain Sykes
Peter is a bitter man. And that’s not just in his choice of drink. Peter is the stressed out character in Cathy Crabb’s Manchester Theatre Awards nominated, The Bubbler. Heading straight to the pub from his week dealing with the local “scrotes” in his job as manager of a branch of Cash Generator, he embarks upon a foul mouthed rant, packed with cruel taunt s about the people in need of his services.
Played with the angriest of energies by Neil Bell, this is the most perfect depiction of a right wing tabloid reading, acrimonious pub bore, the sort of chap to be avoided at the bar at all costs as he delivers his views, not only on his “thieving” regulars but a wide range of subjects from modern art to local parks. Between them, Crabb and Bell have created an absolutely watchable monster of a man, totally lacking in self awareness, even as glimpses of his own past are revealed.
Barman Paul, played by Dan Street-Brown is the perfect foil to this character. Necessarily quieter than the mouthy Peter, Paul isn’t just there as a silent observer but plays an active rôle in expressing his own more liberal views and, with Street-Brown’s great comic timing, seems to take a restrained pleasure in lighting the blue touch paper on Peter’s rants especially in introducing and creating the play’s third character, Tony, a musician and charity worker, the polar opposite of Peter, who only appears in the form of his umbrella, left behind at the pub.
Watching The Bubbler doesn’t feel so much like a play, more like a genuine pub conversation and even though the clean lines of the setting in The Lowry’s circle bar, don’t really evoke a genuine pub feel, this powerful piece more than overcomes that. While the ideas and arguments presented are nothing new, The Bubbler is a great play that, at just fifty minutes long provides a short, sharp, intense, witty dose of powerful entertainment.