Any plans for tonight? I have a recommendation for you: instead of watching Netflix for 45mins, go and see Bang Bang You’re Dead at the BT studio. It’ll have better acting and be more creative and gripping, I promise. Plus, you’ll do some good: all of the play’s proceeds go to charities that tackle abuse in academic environments.
It is this that comprises the content of the play too. William Mastrosimone’s Bang Bang You’re Dead explores the reasons behind school shootings. A series of flashbacks tells the story of Josh’s transformation from Josh (Leo Danczak) to Shadow-Josh (Gerard Krasnopolski) who pulls the trigger. What unfolds in an intrigue of bullying, jealousy and striving for attention. But it is not a one-sided story. Josh’s victims also get a say.
From the minute I entered the BT studio, I got the feeling that this play was to be about something bigger than school shootings. Staged in the round, viewers are immediately made to feel a part of things, as spectator, if not as judge. A set (by Czerwinski himself) is minimalistic, consisting of newspaper articles about school shootings glued to the floor and a bed-like gallery in the middle. Nevertheless, Josh and the victims of his shooting manage to transform it into a stag-hunting scene, a school cafeteria, Josh’s bedroom and a prison cell, all via great physical theatre and teamwork.
The synchronous movement and physicality of the cast in the stag hunting scene was particularly impressive. And so were the two lead actors, Josh, and his best friend and love-interest, Emily (Louise Iselin). The two had a great chemistry and portrayed the rollercoaster of teenage emotions well. Furthermore, not many productions manage to make such good use of lighting (designed by Josephine Wilks). Red lights were put to good use to bring out the voices in Josh’s head and his transformation into Shadow-Josh: a great stylistic device!
If I was to offer one criticism, then it would be that Josh’s transformation could have been made even more realistic had the voice in Josh’s head, Shadow-Josh, built in intensity gradually. Furthermore, while the opening scene worked excellently to draw audience-members right into the action, it dragged on perhaps a little too long. Since the flashbacks that come after are what brings the play to life, why not move on sooner?
Director Antoni Czerwinski deserves much praise for putting together such a great play, which hopefully will work to achieve its mission of helping prevent mass-shootings, bullying and mental health issues in the future. At the very least, it is guaranteed to provide food for thought, as well as 45mins of wonderful theatre!