I really bought into Bicat's dark comedy

Review by Paul Nelson

HARD on the heels of the recent success of The Glee Club which opens at the Duchess Theatre towards the end of this month, The Bush Theatre has another hit on its hands and it would not surprise me one bit if it too followed its predecessor.

Make no mistake about it A Buyer's Market, the pick of the crop of dark comedies, hosting as it does four actors of immense talent, is brilliantly funny, has sharp observations and becomes ultimately a tragic comment on the politics of two worlds, two worlds that these days are not all that far apart.

The play is set in a sumptuous penthouse with a view of the Houses of Parliament where Rosie Delaware, a junior estate agent, is trying to make her first big commission by selling a place worth one grand less than a million pounds. The client is an extremely rich businessman with a 'Russian' accent rejoicing in the name of PG Wodehouse.

Wodehouse demonstrates his sadistic streak almost on his arrival when he picks up a hammer Rosie has been using to repair a faulty awning. The difference in their physical strengths becomes immediately apparent and for a moment things look worrying for Rosie. This show of strength is a device used several times during the play, continually bringing into focus the power of the man and his seeming willingness to use it.

Just what does an Eastern European (or even Russian) want with a penthouse in Westminster, and why the hurry?

His associate turns up, by name Ernest Hemingway, carrying a suitcase full of money and it transpires that the deal for the flat will be done in cash, and in some haste as Wodehouse has to fly to Miami on business this very evening.

The penthouse belongs to a writer of popular novels, Axel Vincent, and he has cash flow problems due to his gambling habit, hence his keenness to offload the property. Inferences to famous penthouse writers are not lost.

With so many really funny laugh lines and the drama and menace hiding just beneath the surface, this play sticks the audience to its seats like glue.

With scenes involving some deadly vodka "It is made with mushrooms. There is nothing in the Koran about liquor made from mushrooms, only wine from grapes", the evening rises to near farce when a large crate is delivered. What is it for? Axel has already in passing mentioned that life would be simpler if his MP wife was rubbed out.

Hemingway, left with the money while everyone is at the solicitors' office drawing up the deeds, claims it's for unfinished goods, thus no duty is payable. Any dead body in it could be dropped in the deepest Baltic.

The answer to what is in the crate and what it is eventually used for comes in a rush that is both funny and exciting.

The writing is of a calibre that is rare, and both cast and director rise to the occasion.

This is one play that you would do well to see before it either transfers or closes on May 4. With this quartet of performers, each as perfect as the others, take your pick as to what is your fancy. To my mind it's a dead heat.

The play reaches heights of such immense satisfaction that you do not even notice the punishing seating at The Bush.

A Buyer's Market by Tony Bicat, Directed by Gemma Bodinetz, Set Design by Bruce Macadie, Lighting Designer Adam Silverman, Sound Designers John Leonard and Scott George for Aura. WITH Emma Cunniffe (Rosie Delaware), PG Wodehouse (Matthew Marsh), Ernest Hemingway (Jalaal Hartley), Anthony Calf (Axel Vincent). Presented by The Bush Theatre, Shepherds Bush Green, W12. 020 7610 4224.