GT Stage

Nick Darke’s Bud

As interpreted by Penny Cliff and the Tell Theatre Company

A man marries a woman ten years his senior. Does he marry for love, or does he marry for – as Nick Darke puts it – collateral?

Although Darke died in 2005 this posthumous performance of his work (last performed in London in 1985) is as relevant now as it was then. The dialogue remains sharp, if you didn’t know you wouldn’t think it was 27 years old. It could have been written yesterday.

Darke’s superb one-man play looks deep into the heart of what marriage really is for some - a slow race to the grave, a game of petty one-upmanship. Two people trapped together, forever, holding on from a false nostalgia. But he offers no solutions.

Bud is a bitter tale. There are no heroes – every character you like slowly loses your sympathy. The location, King’s Head Theatre in Islington, is dark and cramped with an evil smell. As Neil Sheffield acts his gaze sweeps us – desperate, empty. It’s humbling to watch. Every so often someone in the audience laughs inappropriately – small theatre can make you paranoid and this one is barely more than the back room of a pub. It’s intimate. It forces you to engage. When Sheffield, as Bud himself, pleads with his absent wife you are there with him. He is pleading with you. Do you love me? Do I make you happy? Are we happy? Were we, were we ever happy?

It’s sobering and it explores well the tension sometimes caused by marrying outside of economic or class boundaries, of one partner being more dependent on the other. By reversing the typical gender roles in that scenario and having a young, househusband Darke is able to re-examine the psychological impact of such a discrepancy. As marriage looms large in our community consciousness this quiet warning has never been so relevant.

Words: Ana Hine

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