Bucket Men takes place in a small basement studio at C Royale where two men coincidentally have jobs in a small basement of a faceless government building. They turn up for work every day, though not together, for one of them is always late. Always. They are dressed in clinically white shirts and white dungarees that might suggest they are in some form of institution, but then again it could just be a sort of uniform that gives them a sense of worth and belonging to something greater than their subterranean existence might suggest.
Fascinating to watch and delightfully intriguing.
Both men are under a lot of pressure doing very little. They have a routine that must be followed and which is enhanced by re-enacted rituals: the excuse for being late; making the tea using a kettle that doesn’t work; eating the same sandwiches that appear daily and filling the bucket, for after all they are bucket men. There are many more observances and several that would ruin the surprise that awaits. Showing initiative is clearly not in the job description. It’s a living and someone has to do it, but just how long can this diurnal round continue before disillusionment takes over and something finally gives and will it then just start all over again?
Writer/Director Samuel Skoog has created a fascinating and humorous play that makes a highly commendable contribution to the great absurdist tradition. Specifically he takes inspiration from the Irish dramatist Enda Walsh whose plays focus on the routines that enable people who undertake banal jobs to get through their day. In an attempt to escape the mundane practices to which they are committed they create yet further routines. His plays were motivated by the desire ‘to get close to characters who’re on the edge of madness, or have entered it’ and he wanted them ‘to exist in an abstract, expressionistic world’.
Skoog fashions a setting in which the parts make sense but the whole doesn’t quite. He has then placed A and B into this space and given them dialogue which perfectly fits Walsh’s intentions. Bearded Jack Houston and clean-cut Max Aspen punch out the rapid-fire banter in a duologue that contrasts frantic vehemence with scenes worthy of a surrealist episode of The Two Ronnies. They are fascinating to watch and delightfully intriguing. They are in complete control of the pace which they have fine-tunes to suit the changing moods.
The working day might drag for A and B but there is no chance of the audience’s hour doing so. If your days at the Festival Fringe are numbered and you fancy some highly-skilled, profound nonsense then put this on your bucket list.