Review by Melinda Haunton
This review is late. I’m sorry about that. It’s late partly because, like almost anyone who is likely to read this, my life has been overturned quite a bit in the last week. But it’s also late because I didn’t want to submit it – my last theatre review for now, and for an indeterminate time to come. I had a wobble about that, there’s no denying. I’m not a regular reviewer here, but it’s something I have loved doing.
I’m glad of the three productions I saw at Vault last Saturday (was it really last Saturday?) – already in a fug of bleach and sanitiser, worried chat with the lady sharing my bench, but not nearly where we are now – that I saved reviewing Bin Juice for last. Because it’s really hard to get mushy about this one. Bin Juice is dark, tough as nails, genuinely atmospheric and hilarious. I reckon if anything of fringe theatre survives the shutdown, the ones with this attitude have a decent shot.
Okay, the play. Three women, one set. An excruciating job interview. A sinister Someone at the end of the phone. A brilliant double-take when we realise we’re seeing the same set reversed, as time goes backwards. A growing realisation that this filthy cleaning job is about terminal disposal, in a context left unexplained. The bodies, in the bins, which we never see, but are totally present.
The job interview is partly excruciating for the clash of class between Francine (Adeline Waby, aggressively unlovable) and Belinda (Helena Antoniou, such a fresh, open face… surely she’s the good guy?). Marla (Madison Clare) acts as Francine’s chorus, and is the butt of half the jokes. Clare does a great job with the required mix of sinister and gormless, while being a believable stooge who has a way with a brick if the bodies aren’t quite bodies yet. The scene would be a cheerful start to a comedy office mismatch. It’s so much more than that here, as we flashback, and then forwards, to find out where this intersection of the three women is going to lead. No spoilers, but I’ll never look at a bag of flour the same.
This is a well-worked play, with enough plot and not too much narration. A sense of horror starts to creep over the audience as it progresses, but there’s nothing exploitative here. There are questions at the end, but we’ve followed a storyline to its grisly end. (I typed gristly, first time. That too.) It’s funny – there’s a description of someone doing that old self-defence trick with your doorkeys – “Like Wolverine. But with keys”, which is timed enough to laugh till you fall off the narrow benches in this most uncomfortable of Vault venues. Cat Kolubayev, who writes and produces, has some brilliant observational lines. Francine, post-dentist: “My mouth has a heartbeat.” These are real people. Horrible ones; but very human too.
You’d never call Bin Juice feelgood. It’s a story about people casually falling into evil, through necessity and a cruel job market. But it’s a great piece of subtle horror. I hope we get a chance to see it again.