Where the Hell is Bernard?

Dystopia is a tricky subject matter to get right in a world obsessed with its own destruction as our current one. The well has perhaps run dry for bleak future worlds in which we eek out existence in the presence of a tyrannical overlord, a plotline popularised in science fiction through the 1970s in films such as Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. It is disappointing then that the charming collection of clowns that make up this production of Where The Hell Is Bernard? are saddled with a story that sticks so religiously to these tropes. Whilst the story present in the show is solid it treads almost no new ground, leaving an otherwise endearing show to occasionally flounder.

Unfortunately this show doesn't quite lend its performers the story they deserve

The plot revolves around four mostly silent office workers who rebel against the autocratic system and go on the run, learning about themselves and the world around them as they go. The story hits most of the familiar plot beats for dystopian fiction and is assembled as little more than a series of tied-together vignettes. These individual sections vary in quality but almost all range from solid to great (if occasionally going on a little too long). The sketch-like scenes are cute, quirky and mostly very enjoyable to watch but over the course of an hour one looks for a more satisfying whole.

The performers in this production, four of the five women who make up Haste Theatre, are the highlight of this show. Bringing a warmth, synchronicity and endearing atmosphere to the world around them, their likeability bears a lot of the weight in making this story work successfully. Hugely talented performers, the four women on stage rearrange the set, sing, dance, contort themselves and throw themselves around the tiny stage in order to bring the world of the show to life, often very succesfully. Haste Theatre show an incredibly exciting level of talent and enthusiasm for their work that makes for a hugely promising fringe act.

Unfortunately this show doesn't quite lend them the story they deserve to bring out their best qualities. The structure of the show is the overriding issue as familiarity of the themes and script, combined with the loose employment of complex science fiction lore which is never properly defined, leave the audience wanting more. It is clear that with a more grounded subject matter or a fresher take on familiar themes, Haste Theatre are a group to watch at the Fringe. For the time being though they can be labelled as "promising", and should be seen by anyone with a particular taste in cute, likeable clowning who doesn't mind so much about story.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

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The Blurb

In a world where no one plays, no one questions and no one ever leaves, four women work in an office high above the city anonymously returning lost items. Everything runs like clockwork – until one day a box mysteriously bounces back... As the women embark on a mission that takes them out of the city and their comfort zones, they unwittingly find the future of humanity in their hands. Mixing magical visuals, movement, live song and clown, award-winning Haste Theatre create a darkly comic warning for the future, supported by Arts Council England.