PUSH Festival 2020.
Bost-Uni Plues? I peg your bardon!
Ugly Bucket Theatre explain the misheard origins of that title later in their show but you won’t need a degree in linguistics to guess what it’s all about. Using accounts of real-life experiences, three cheerful clowns launch themselves into an effervescent, knockabout exploration of the highs and lows of being at university and what happens after you finally graduate.
Bundling up the main milestones from a four-year-long rollercoaster ride into a fun-fuelled fifty-five minutes, it breathlessly covers a lot of ground but doesn’t skimp on the real stories behind the clown faces. Even the first steps into studenthood are shown to be fraught with difficulty – awkwardly making new friends, finding your way around an unfamiliar city, and, of course, embarking on the messy rite of passage that is freshers week.
Wildly dancing to techno, and flinging Skittles into the audience, the performers give us a sweet taste of the hedonistic pleasures that can await but they’re ever mindful that’s not the whole picture. It’s not just nights out that can be full-on, and the treadmill of academic study is given a fast and furious makeover courtesy of Super Mario Kart.
With a rapidly deployed mix of humour, dancing and physical playfulness, Ugly Bucket keeps things moving, making their points, prompting us to think, but always staying upbeat, and flying full speed ahead.
Eventually though, the clowning around, the getting knocked down but getting up again, seems like a lot of effort. There’s even a moment when, as the reality of post-uni life strikes, and a young woman is being battered by a big inflatable hammer to emphasise that, humour feels suddenly inappropriate. Ugly Bucket seem to know just how far to go to hit home, as she lies there motionless, and the blows rain down for what soon seems like too long, you just want it to stop.
The strength of the show is, that amidst the bucketfuls of silliness, there are lots of other similarly striking moments – smart, sharp or even just disarmingly rib-tickling. Sock puppets dispensing wise words, hoots of recognition from the audience when the ubiquitous string of fairy lights appear to make the student accommodation feel like ‘home’, and even an over-emotional banana bathing in the spotlight.
With its mix of energies and adept use of mood, the piece captures so well the contrast between life as a student and what comes next. Bravely, it’s not afraid to occasionally burst its own jolly bubble by asking questions, especially about how well-prepared young people are, not just for university, but also the sudden daunting changes afterwards.
That clown make-up isn’t just for show, Bost-Uni Plues is genuinely loads of fun. Don’t be fooled though. Beneath the silly faces and squeaky voices, in amongst the pratfalls and frog costumes, there’s also thought and care, and most importantly hope.
Performance seen on 29 January 2020.