This blog is about my Cycle ride to the ‘Cuckoo Club’ – a theatre, to watch a play ‘Bull’. This experience stands out for me simply because it showcases the harsh reality of life. To be frank, the cruel side of the corporate world.
Pictures taken at the Cuckoo Club
Written by Mike Bartlett ‘Bull’ is a winner of the ‘Best New Play’ at the UK Theatre Awards, 2013′. It is also a recipient of ‘The Olivier Award’ for Outstanding Achievement in the Affiliate Theatre, 2015′. Directed by Glenn Hayden, the narrative boldy highlights a vicious culture of office politics, a phenomenon common across yet concealed and disapproved with outstanding cosmetic touch of professionalism. Bull at the cuckoo club, keeps focus on the drama and is performed in simplicity with minimum of props, furniture or scenic backgrounds and delivered in a single uninterrupted scene. (duration: one hour)
The Unfair Play:
The merciless drama moves around three business colleagues Thomas, Isobel and Tony. A situation of mental combat and nerves wherein one of the three will face the axe and get fired on account of downsizing measures in their firm. The plot finds the three of them battling emotionally as they debate on each others chances of survival and await for the arrival of their boss, Carter, to come and announce his judgement.
Tony is a motivated, dominant and flamboyant personality loudly projecting his one-upmanship with sharp underlying intentions to downgrade his opponent. The character of Isobel is bundled with great skills to undermine her colleague with calculative approach and opportunistic bend that easily drives the situation to her advantage. You could relate Thomas to a more cultured, innocent, calm and truthful person who only believes in his work, away from the notorious games of backstabbing and evil intentions.
The intelligent duo of Tony and Isobel go all out with their tricks to weaken their prey Thomas. Although, the situation demands the three to be tough, fight for themselves and firmly protect their interest in a rightful manner, but Isobel and Tony team up to their full potential and start isolating Thomas with a series of provocative comments. Accusations become personal – filled with phrases of disgrace and demeaning remarks. Thomas is insulted for his dressing sense, for being a non drinker, called unsocial and even labeled as a man who lacks the charm to attract any women. A smart interplay of verbal attacks by Tony and Isobel starts to take a toll on Thomas as he loses his cool head. There is official information and there are secrets between the duo that they conveniently withhold disallowing Thomas to prepare for the decisive moment. Both feel, Thomas is a weaker soul and should go. Sugar coated insulting expressions pour in successive intervals, leaving Thomas cornered and cramped for emotional space. On one moment, the duo demonstrate to be concerned about the weak situation Thomas is in, simultaneously they continue to sting venom so that he falters and gives-up. Emotional, nasty and high decibel expressions flow between the three keeping you attentive all along.
When Carter steps in, Isobel and Tony facemask themselves and appear to be the most easy going, cordial and friendly people to work with in the office. Right from the outset, the boss is given a feel that there is some problem in the behaviour of Thomas. Tony and Isobel with super confidence, present a copy of their performance results to Carter and gently nudge him to see what Thomas has achieved despite knowing that he is unprepared. A clever move by the two puts Thomas further in an embarrassing position. Carter’s focus is deliberately diverted and kept on the average performance of Thomas to escape questioning about theirs. Like a typical boss, Carter has lesser time for this meeting and is more keen to give his verdict. Isobel and Tony gradually continue to influence Carter and he systematically falls in their trap.
Thereafter, Thomas is questioned on many fronts by Carter and degraded more for being a conventional person by overlooking his skill sets. For instance, a stain on his blazer is considered to be far too offensive by Carter where he goes onto call him unhygienic and unprofessional. Thomas attempts to confront but is mowed down for his lower grade. The argument turns ugly and taking offense of several appeals by Thomas, Carter adjudicates his name and tells him to leave. Thomas being innocent, pledges to challenge his verdict. His boss warns him of the fatal consequences he would have to undergo if he manages to survive in the company. And if he fails the challenge, he is bound to miss out on the exit entitlements. At last, Thomas is threatened and put to numbness. He eventually succumbs & weeps, worried about securing another job, managing his family, financial commitments and his future.
How many of us truthfully admit the reality?
In my personal view, there exists a tribe of Tony & Isobel in the corporate world. The scale and magnitude might differ but the presence of such sordid personalities can never be ruled out. On many occasions, a civil employee pays the price of his honesty becoming a silent victim of the uncivilized lot. The act of fueling the situations doesn’t cease to exist. Many examples of unhealthy occurrences are quite prevalent where the introverts or the sober ones become easy targets. At times, they are made to feel vulnerable knowing about their problems in their personal lives. During appraisals too, artificial circumstances are created to sideline the more genuine ones while the favours are extended to a favorite few. Sadly, the legacy of human dominance of strong over the weak, right over wrong flawlessly thrives under the coating of ethical standards and fair play rules and policies.
Those who take a stand, will lose their career. And the ones who chooses to pursue their career, will never take a stand. Surely, this Tamasha of unfairness is here to stay. (tamasha meaning: a grand show, performance or celebration, especially one involving dance).
Yet again, the theory of Survival of the Fittest becomes meaningful to us. Stay Fit, Stay Strong is the message.
The accolades won by the play are a testimony of its success and perhaps much above to be assigned a rating. Let the audience in you watch and decide.
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai