Once Upon a Bridge – Druid Theatre – Review
Run finished – 11 – 13 February 2021
On the morning of 5th of May in 2017, at 7.40 am, a quite bizarre event happened on Putney Bridge in London. A jogger was captured on film as he appears to push a woman who is walking in the opposite direction. He shoves her off her feet and she is thrown into the path of an oncoming bus. The bus swerves to avoid the woman, while the jogger proceeds on his way, not even looking back at the chaos he has caused. The possible reasons behind this event are explored in this new play by Sonya Kelly, as she imagines the lives of the three people involved, the jogger, the woman and the bus driver. We hear about their backgrounds and what happened to bring them to the bridge on that fateful day.
Sonya Kelly is a playwright and actor based in Dublin. Her first work ‘The Wheelchair on my Face’ won a Scotsman Fringe First Award for new writing at the Edinburgh Fringe 2012. She also wrote ‘How To Keep An Alien’ which featured in the Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival in 2014, winning the award for Best Production. In recent years she has worked with Druid Theatre company, with Furniture in 2019 and now this new work. The production was performed live in the Mick Lally Theatre in Galway, and was available to watch via the Druid website to viewers around the world!
While the play is inspired by real-life events, it only uses them as a starting point for a work of fiction. We hear about the lives of the three main characters. The jogger is played by Aaron Monaghan, he works in the City and has dabbled in some insider trading but as he says himself ‘everybody does’. He is by no means a monster but levels of stress and natural aggression lead him to this momentary act of madness. The woman is played by Siobhán Cullen, she is a young Irish woman who is battling to make a career in the legal profession in London. She is at the start of her career, and on the way to an interview on that fateful morning. The driver is played by Adetomiwa Edun and we hear about his family life, and his early morning start at 4.30 AM. He has set out to achieve the perfect bus route, leaving and arriving exactly as per the timetable until the incident on Putney bridge.
Watching a performance at home on your laptop or television screen will never replace the intimacy and intensity of the theatre and in many ways that is a good thing. The role of the theatre is not threatened by these online productions and we will hopefully return to the theatre within the next year. While this work was meant for the stage, the style of three interspliced monologues is easily converted to the screen, as there is no interaction between the cast members. The play was recorded with each actor talking directly to the camera in front of a black background. This style allows for easy editing with simple cuts between the characters, but it does belie the technical difficulties of a live broadcast of this nature. Theatre cast and crew have had to learn a multitude of new skills over the course of the last year for productions such as this, which essentially turn a theatre into a TV production company!
Kelly has certainly found an interesting topic for this new work. There is something fascinating about the subject matter, how a potentially fatal accident could happen so easily. This is no drive-by shooting or other calculated act of aggression, the real mystery is what was going on inside the head of the jogger. It’s an interesting and well-constructed play that delves into some complex themes.
A new play by Sonya Kelly
Directed by Sara Joyce
Live Streamed from The Mick Lally Theatre, Galway