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Simon Munnery: Buckethead

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Simon Munnery seems very apologetic about presenting a play, rather than stand-up. In a preamble, he addresses us directly, as if compering a gig, trying to warm us up into the mood he wants us in.

You don't get Shakespearean actors doing that, but Munnery doesn't appear at ease with that fourth wall, and even when proceedings proper get under way, he's often tempted to break it.

Not that he needs be concerned for the robustness of his one-man play. Designed, intriguingly, to be performed under a tree, it takes the form of a series of monologues from a society in the near future, when some people have taken to taking buckets on their heads.

The reasons are manifold, and Munnery makes them all seem entirely plausible, if satirically exaggerated. It could be a bid for anonymity; it could be a way of defeating capitalism by never seeing anything you might desire; it could be a comment on the way we all care only about ourselves, not caring to see what's around us.

What seems like an apparently stupid idea thus becomes an act of rebellious defiance, or possibly even blind compliance. It's testament to Munnery's inventive, intelligent genius that he can extrapolate so much social comment from this simple, ridiculous action. For a man with a bucket on his head, he has a lot of vision.

The rich ideas explored through a couple of Bucketheads, being interrogated by the system about their reasoning, and then a cloaked representative of the establishment pondering their motives.

Sparkling lines of wordplay, and ideaplay, if there is such a thing, infuse the script. It sometimes feels as if gags from his brilliant stand-up routine have been carelessly grafted on, but more often they elegantly express bigger arguments. "You can't defeat us," roars the Communist agitatior. "Because we've already defeated ourselves." Decades of socialist doctrine, posturing and in-fighting summed up in nine pithy words. Excellent stuff.

The play does feel something like a work in progress ­ a mood not helped by Munnery's reading director Kevin Eldon's notes aloud at the end - but even an unfinished masterpiece is a joy to behold.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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