The dusty floorboards, the slight hint of staleness in the air, the rows upon rows of little rectangular cases all begging to be taken off the shelf for just one night… Who doesn’t miss video shops?
People who have Netflix accounts and an internet connection, that’s who. The kind of people who may have borrowed a title from David’s DVD Paradise Shop in 2014 and may, perhaps, simply have forgotten to bring it back when they got all caught up in the joys of streaming —to the everlasting chagrin of David’s successor, Baardman (John Maytham).
In BUCKET BOY, written by Pierre Malherbe (who also stars in an energetic, absorbing turn as the gormless yet loveable Duncan), we’re allowed a glimpse behind the closed door and late-returns slot of a video rental shop one may say has, er, outlived its usefulness, if one wanted to put it kindly.
When Duncan ruins the world-weary Baardman’s dream of closing up on time one night, the unsuspecting younger man sets in motion a madcap chain of events that includes everything from digging a mysterious hole in a stranger’s garden to being on the receiving end of catty-based threats of violence.
Baardman’s obsession with something from his distant past pulls both men into a spiral of intrigue, suburban espionage, and general desperation.
Director Adrian Collins’ inventive blocking sees the actors perform a delightfully over-the-top pas-de-deux around the shop as they lift and stack DVD cases and try to avoid bumping into each other. Collins’s sparkling touch is also evident in the expert timing of the two performers’ patter and the judicious use of lights and music, which are all employed to hilarious effect.
Maytham’s deadpan reactions to his younger employee’s attempts at conversation paint a convincing picture of a man who’s had enough of everything and everyone, and Malherbe’s infectious jovialness allows you to inhabit his character’s more innocent, happier world for an hour or so. The two form a compelling, very watchable odd-couple act.
The only real point of criticism would be that the play itself felt a tad rushed and unfocused. Too many potential stories were suggested by the evocative setting, perhaps, and not enough time was allowed to flesh one or two out fully, which means the show doesn’t necessarily earn its sweet, touching ending.
That aside, though, BUCKET BOY delivers more than enough comedic action, bittersweet nostalgia, and laugh-out-loud moments to make for an excellent night out—especially for those of us who miss browsing the shelves of our local video shop and annoying the unamused shop assistant by daring to ask for an opinion on Life of Pi (or other tiger-based, nautically-set films).
BUCKET BOY will be running at The Baxter Theatre Centre’s Masambe Theatre until 15 November 2023. Tickets are available through Webtickets.