Ugly Bucket Theatre are a company of physical theatre performers that take the guise of clowns. These are not demonic, phobia-inducing clowns, like Pennywise, they are purely a group of highly skilled comics with painted faces.
Their unique branch of physical comedy combines slapstick humour with techno dancing, to deliver an explosive examination of Bost-Uni Plues. No, that’s not a typo. The misspelt title of the play originates from a simple slip of the tongue in an interview with somebody experiencing post-uni blues.
Everybody says that university is the best three years of your life. Student life is often believed to be entirely partying, with a little bit of studying. However, what happens when the stress of impending deadlines kicks in? Most importantly, what happens after you graduate? Bost-Uni Plues honestly explores the realities of being a student, and post-graduate depression. Laden with debt, and returning back to the same part time job you did before, university can often seem pointless.
Starting with nervously receiving A-level exam results, the play moves chronologically through university life, from the trepidation of moving into student halls and meeting your flatmates, to wild nights out, drunken escapades, graduation, and the void left behind afterwards, when your time isn’t spent juggling deadlines with socialising.
As you would expect, these scenarios are realised through amusing physical comedy. However, Bost-Uni Plues also features puppetry, and is set to a soundtrack of techno music and audio interviews. Hearing the experiences of real students, and watching them being performed by three clowns, is fantastically funny.
Grace Gallagher, Canice Ward, and Angelina Cliff burst with energy as they bound across the stage, strutting their dance moves, partying, and munching on drugs, throwing them into the audience. Not to worry… they are only Skittles.
When the partying has to make way for studying, uni days flash by in the blink of an eye. This is inventively realised through an excellent Mario Kart sketch. As the gap between deadlines gets shorter, the faster you have to work, needing to consume more Mario Super Stars to keep up with the relentless pace, hoping that university doesn’t end in a car crash.
The moment that uni is finally over comes like a slap in the face. Or being beaten by a giant inflatable mallet, to be precise. Although an apt image, the sheer force that Grace Gallagher is beaten with is brutal. As the blows continue to rain down on her prostrate body, the scene becomes excruciating to watch. The extreme violence is too prolonged for me to laugh at. Although it did receive chuckles from some members of the audience, I felt that it went too far and I just wanted it to stop.
This stark violence seems out of place and entirely unnecessary in such a funny show, particularly when a similar point is raised through a much more appropriate image. The three clowns are on a raft in the middle of the sea. Shipwrecked and alone, with only some seagulls for company, they are stranded, without any support.
Many students feel like this after graduation, without speaking about it. By raising the topic, Ugly Bucket prompt audience members to have these crucial conversations and bring awareness to how wide-spread post-uni blues are.
To most members of the audience, this show is hugely resonant. However, the biggest issue I had with Bost-Uni Plues is that I couldn’t really identify with most of the piece because I never went to university. I am currently in my fifth year of a distance degree with the Open University, so I couldn’t relate to the experience of living in student halls, the excitement of Fresher’s Week, nor post-uni blues themselves.
Instead, the show made me resentful. It honestly made me jealous, yearning for what I have missed out on. Rather than getting the ‘proper uni experience’, I am juggling a part-time degree with full-time work. Blogging about theatre keeps me sane. Maybe in two years, after I graduate, I might reflect on the Bost-Uni Plues and feel differently.