‘Bullet Tongue Reloaded‘ is more than just a piece of theatre. The producing company – The Big House – is an organisation that ‘works with care leavers who are at a high risk of social exclusion’, using theatre as a transformative tool to develop life skills, emotional literacy and creative potential. At the same time it provides a platform for those who have been marginalised to have their voices heard. This play therefore is performance art, social movement and therapeutic device rolled into one.
The manifestation of this is a performance which is sincere, authentic and disturbing; blurring the boundaries between the theatrical and the real. It immerses the audience in the world of gang crime, drug dealing and violence, and the effect at times is unsettling – not least because despite the clear performance context, there is a tangible presence of experience and truth in the words of the performers.
What is impressive is the ability of the actors to balance this with hugely credible performances, displaying excellent skill and mastery of the craft. Shonagh Marie in particular, is stunning as Bumper, but there are many moments of extremely powerful storytelling which can be credited to the entire cast.
It must be noted that it is, in places, difficult to watch. This is a testament to the realism created by the quality of writing, direction and acting, as well as the superb promenade set design. The humour interspersed throughout does help to offset this. The piece also manages to steer away from judgement and it is refreshing to see this side of gang life represented in a multifaceted and complex way, rather than as is commonly viewed through the lense of the media.
If occasionally you are reminded that these actors are still gaining experience, these moments are scarce and they don’t deter from the overall effect of the show. The raw energy and value of the performance for both actors and audience, ensure this is an extremely important contribution to the theatre scene.