Prior to seeing Guillermo Calderón’s B, I wondered, as he will have intended, what the B could have stood for. It turns out the B was for bomb, but you don’t say bomb, you say cheese…or cow (though the characters aren’t sure which).
Confusion is what drives this piece, Aimee-Ffion Edwards’ Marcela and Danusia Samal’s Alejandra are young idealist terrorists who want to set off a noise bomb. The two are pretending to host a birthday party in their apartment as they meet their supplier, Paul Kaye’s José Miguel, who we discover has other intentions; Miguel gives them a real explosive and wants to start a war. Add in a nosy neighbour named Carmen, played by Sarah Niles, as well as the fact the other three characters cover their faces with jumpers for the majority of the piece, and you have more than enough elements to drive this satirical farce.
All this sounds incredibly confusing, so it is a huge credit to Calderón, and translator William Gregory, that the audience is kept at the appropriate level of confusion throughout the piece, never feeling truly lost. The play tackled ideas that I’ve read some reviewers felt didn’t resonate with an English audience. Although the ideas are inarguably more familiar for a Chilean audience, with the recent bombing atrocities happening in the UK I felt it easy enough to tap into the idealism and questions which drove the piece.
The play did seem to lack energy as lines were delivered flatly, which may have been due to the 14:30 start as this wasn’t a problem for the rest of the piece. It also took me about five minutes to accept that the dialogue was constantly punctuated by ‘Oh’, ‘Right’, ‘Shit’ and ‘Yeah’ and with lengthy pauses between most lines. The feeling of awkwardness was hammered home, but it soon became the accepted rapport by the audience.
The main body of the piece was fantastic, Kaye’s performance especially so since he wore large sunglasses as well as the face coverings, yet still managed to engage the audience with his every move and delivery of each line. This was satire at its best, effortlessly taking the audience from humorous wordplay to one of the characters having to defecate into the bomb to ensure it would infect its victims upon detonation. Samal’s monologue explaining how she does not fear going to prison because all her friends are there is a particularly poignant moment.
B had its faults, Niles never seemed to recover from her energy lacking start and the piece perhaps tried to be too moralistic at times, but the visually awesome, manic ending tied up a fantastically enjoyable piece of theatre and I look forward to seeing more of Calderón’s work on British stages.