January may have come and gone, but for all those desperate pessimists out there, clinging on by their fingertips to a general feeling of melancholy and glumness, there is cause to rejoice! At the Vaults this week, for four nights only, you can catch what is without a doubt the gloomiest piece of theatre I have seen in a long time – Be Prepared.
Essentially, what this moving sixty minute monologue offers the audience is a privy insight into the complete emotional breakdown of Tom (Ian Bonar), an awkward, nervous thirty-something who is struggling to come to terms with the death of his father. The last thing he needs is constant phone calls from Mr Chambers, a confused World War Two veteran who believes he is calling a funeral parlour.
Ian Bonar is very convincing – and engaging – as Tom. From the minute he apologetically shuffles to the middle of the floor with his Acquascutum suit and keyboard he captures the audience and with each awkward musical interlude or gentle reminiscence about his father you feel for him more keenly. He is obviously a talented actor and carries the story with terrific energy and minimal props.
Bonar’s piece is undoubtedly hard to watch. However, I am not sure this is always in an intentional way. The script rambles and meanders and is rather cyclical, and whilst that highlights Tom’s inner turmoil, it is immensely frustrating to watch. More problematically still, aside from a very few moments of humour, there is no respite for the audience. Tom begins his journey on the brink of a breakdown; the pace and tension that creates never really varies. It is stressful, is what it is.
Of course, that’s just my opinion, as a somewhat frivolous twenty three year old who has – thankfully – never much had to contemplate mortality, either of myself or my parents. Anyone who has might find that this piece resonates much more keenly, and contains many more glimmers of hope than I could easily find. I couldn’t say. All I know is, it’s a sad and rather bleak show and if that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea on a cold Wednesday in February I don’t blame you.
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