Abigail Bryant reviews The Buzz at The Bread & Roses Theatre
Kyla and Josh have just got home from an industry awards event, and are obsessing over the red carpet photos on social media. Surrounded by sterile yet lavish aesthetics, their luxury penthouse serves as the setting for the duration of the play, and within that technology plays a dominant role. A reflection on the seduction of fame, The Buzz explores the fickle and ominous reality of the idolisation of public figures, while also exploring gender disparity and power relations in the realms of patriarchal celebrity culture.
Lydia Wrynne’s writing is well-paced and witty, however some underlying issues with this production override the quality of the script. For a play that is explicitly set in 2018, the visual aesthetics feel dated and amateur, from the 90s style poster on the wall to the scruffy set which would benefit from a ‘less is more’ approach to imply the decadent, reckless affluence that lies at the heart of the narrative. Although played brilliantly by Andrew Umerah, the character of Josh is also disappointing in his one-dimensional portrayal of a modern musician, with an unbelievable lack of intelligence and self-obsession. Sassy Clyde is compelling and believable as Kyla, a self-confessed ‘has-been’ whose boyfriend basks in the glory of her talent, while she waits patiently in their ‘spaceship’ of a home. She manages to balance a self-important persona with an endearing and human side, especially when addressing her own vulnerabilities. On the other end of the spectrum, Kyla’s estranged brother Nate (who drops by unannounced as the evening progresses) is a liberal and free-spirited individual whose lifestyle contrasts greatly to that of his sister. Although this juxtaposition highlights the degree of Kyla and Josh’s superficial existence, the extremes are just too radical to feel credible.
The plot changes in tone as Nate’s friend from ‘base’, Cordelia, enters the picture, and exposes a more sinister truth about Josh’s celebrity lifestyle. This revelation, although an important one to explore in the play’s context, jars slightly with the previous scenes in terms of execution. Hannah Duffy portrays the character with visceral emotion, but the play tries to take on too much in too little time, and ultimately lacks impact and resonance.
The Buzz examines complex issues in a complex world, and unfortunately one dimensional characters and a jumbled narrative result in a promising concept falling flat.