The Establishment: Le Bureau de Strange

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Heroes @ The Hive – The Bunka
Aug 2-25 (20:40)

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Sitting in the depths of The Hive, the audience are lead through into the sweltering antechamber of ‘The Bunka’. On our right as we pass through the curtains, two bowler hats peek from over the tops of newspapers. Two pairs of perfectly matched, crossed, legs hover below. These are, of course, our entertainers for the evening, The Establishment. Once all are seated they creep between the dividing line of the 2 sections of seating, bright pastel umbrellas under their arms, charity shop checked jackets on their backs, carrying the legacy of Weichmarch era cabaret easily on their shoulders. Sitting amongst the audience, they echo the sniggers that start to burst from corners of the room, like a Steve Reich looped tape track. They hold the silence in between audience reactions with the patience of Indiana Jones waiting to replace a bag of jewels with a sack of sand.
“Have we started yet?”

These words, and themes, are repeated throughout the performance, lending it the weight that any absurdist humour requires to give it pathos, and connect with the audience. Upon finally ‘beginning’, they bring out their Financial Times and read through a litany of market forecasts and celebrity foibles. The current harbingers of doom in our consumerist capitalist age. The wordplay between the duo of performers is so tight, it makes you feel that if The White Stripes performed comedy this is what it would look like. But the more obvious comparison is Waiting for Godot, and here the dark spectre of a never ending Brexit, unnamed, raises it’s head. This is mirrored in the tension between the 2 sides of the audience in the room.

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“You are highbrow!” They ironically declare to the 2 Americans who decide that the beginning to the show they’d really like should involve more pizaaz and ‘Flashpops’. The other half of the audience are declared ‘low brow’, for simply being content laughing at the sight of them parading up and down the room, shooting their umbrellas out to yelps of glee. Each laugh receiving an enthusiastically blown kiss from our hosts. The sense of unity they bring to the room, by engaging with the audience members who obviously don’t like the pairs schtick, and asking them what they would prefer, lends an air of positivity to proceedings, in cunning contrast to the current political climate.

There are 2 standout metaphor moments. One, a game of cricket which rapidly delolves into the tall, bespectacled, Establishment member repeatedly hurling balls of crumpled up newspaper at his partner while shouting “CRICKET!” (They have already established that “no one understands the rules of Cricket, except The English”), and a surreal finale, a tale of St George and The Dragon, sitting down to settle their differences over a pint, which results in the cheeriest, weirdest, audience singalong I’ve had the joy to take part in for a long time. I’ll be going to see The Establishment again. It was genuinely impossible to tell which sections of the show were scripted, and which were spontaneous. Such was the clairvoyant-esque connection between the two. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next time.

Ewan Law

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