With so many theatrical productions revolving around the beauty and joy of falling in love, it’s refreshing to finally see a production focused on the exact opposite: the destruction wreaked by a failing relationship. Kopfkino’s debut production, The Bearpit, explores Flora and Nic’s publicly perfect relationship, whilst privately, contempt and hatred have been simmering for months. Oh, and also, it’s the end of the world.
“a character study of intense depth and emotion”
Kopfkino’s website lists their work as “inherently autobiographical” and, in the case of The Bearpit, it shows. A brutally honest and realistic script combined with convincing, emotionally-driven performances creates an engrossing chemistry between the couple. It’s a credit to the writing and performance that, in relation to plot, barely anything happens, and yet character development intensely fills the hour-long performance, without ever feeling like it’s treading water. The Bearpit feels entirely autobiographical, as if Flora and Nic are expressing genuine emotions, past or present, through performance, rather than inventing these characters out of thin air.
On a technical level, we swap between brightly lit public sequences and dim, often physical-based private sequences to express the differing aspects of the relationship. The format is, in general, a success. The personal sequences are executed with an impressive commitment, creating a gut-wrenching view on a twisted relationship. Meanwhile, the public sequences nail the tone, appearing a little too happy, as we notice the private anguish bubbling beneath the surface.
The only criticism I have is that the use of the ‘end of the world’ feels somewhat extraneous. The constant references to acid rain, soaring temperatures and a society descending into anarchy disconnect the audience from the otherwise intensely personal story on show. Aside from the idea that the time pressure forces Flora and Nic into confronting their issues, it’s a little odd to pitch such a small, personal tale in the setting of such a large, cataclysmic event when it seems one has little impact on the other. The writing was engaging enough as a personal story of building up courage to confront and combat relationship issues without needing the apocalypse to make it interesting.
The Bearpit is a stunning debut for Kopfkino Theatre, promising more exciting and innovative work for the future of this budding company. The Bearpit is a character study of intense depth and emotion, and is certainly worth a watch.
ZOO Southside, 4th – 19th August 15:05
Image: The Other Richard