Bucket Men, written and directed by Samuel Skoog, is an absurdist play in the great tradition of Pinter and Beckett – though it’s inventive and assured enough to stand as a considerable achievement in its own right. A (Jack Houston) and B (Max Aspen) are workmates, who turn up for the same thankless job every day at the same location. Clad in white overalls, they run listlessly through a series of dull observations and listless interactions, before sitting down to eat their habitual (identical) sandwich. The kettle doesn’t work, so their accompanying cup of tea is a rather dry affair.
Our first thought is that these men are decorators, or builders, or something equally mundane – but then we learn that whatever it is they are supposed to be working on is housed in a bath in the corner of the room, a bath that’s covered by a white sheet…
As the play progresses, and the couple’s actions are repeated, we start to believe that we’ve got the measure of this story. But then B does something out of character, something that interrupts the familiar flow – and everything goes suddenly and catastrophically pear-shaped as events career towards a devastating conclusion, the full horror of which only hits me long after I’ve left the building.
Bucket Men is an ingenious metaphor about the banality of evil – about the ways in which everyday people are compelled by their employment to do the unthinkable. It’s about how much individuals rely on repetition for their own sanity… and how our ‘freedom’ is controlled by forces beyond our comprehension.
Skoog’s script is really very good and the performances by Houston and Aspen, are impressive. The play is performed in a tiny venue that really deserves to be sold out for every performance. Go and see this little gem of a play.
If you don’t end up discussing it for hours afterwards, I’ll be very surprised.