Tracy Letts's play Bug has bugged me since I saw it last night. The performances from leads James Norton and Kate Fleetwood were superb and the reason to watch but the play left me feeling a bit 'meh'.
Set in a cheap motel room Agnes (Fleetwood) is hiding out from her violent, ex-con husband when her friend introduces her to Peter (Norton) a quiet and strange guy. They sort of hit it off but mystery surrounds Peter: is he just a loner, is he on the run, is he an axe-murderer (he says he isn't) or is he just a bit weird?
The intrigue surrounding Peter, as their relationship builds, together with Agnes' fear about her husband showing up builds the tension nicely until Peter starts to reveal his true colours. After this everything starts to disintegrate for Peter, Agnes and my engagement with the play.
It is difficult to write more without spoiling a little bit so don't read on if that bothers you, but it turns out that Peter is a paranoid schizophrenic with a penchant for weird conspiracy theories. Agnes buys into his paranoia because she "doesn't want to lose the one good thing to happen to her".
And here is what bugged me. It doesn't feel like the play is saying anything particularly revelatory about mental illness - drugs make you paranoid perhaps? Peter's illness develops into an increasingly incredulous plot device. I laughed at one point and not in a good way. It is one of those plays where the intrigue that surrounds the opening scenes is let down by the reveal and the consequences.
The pleasure for me in watching Bug was in the performances. James Norton goes from quiet, polite loner to itchy, self-harming and paranoid and Kate Fleetwood from sassy to desperate and equally paranoid. I believed in the performances but not in the plot and I'm giving it three stars. It is one hour and 50 minutes with an interval and is playing at the Found 111 temporary performance space until May 7.
* A note on seating. Found 111 is in the attic space of an old art school and is unallocated seating. It is a small, intimate performance space with bundles of atmosphere but where it loses out is on sight lines. Get there early and join the queue to get in - at least 45 minutes before the start time. If you can't nab a seat on the front row go for one of the raised rows otherwise you could be peering around the person in front. Accept that your view will be blocked at some point during the performance regardless of where you sit.