Theatre: Mayfest 2015 review: Before Us

Martin Booth, May 16, 2015

A theme of this year’s Mayfest is death – and on day two, Australian Stuart Bowden has already made a bid for the most glorious death of the festival.

Lying prostrate on the floor, he invites the audience to gather round to watch him die, writhing around on the floor, metamorphosing from being dressed in a plain “little green sack” into a cross between a butterfly, a hippie at the Stone Circle at Glastonbury and an Aztec warrior.

The most committed among the audience lie down with him and then he is gone; the house lights come up and there is the curious sight of half the people in the Bristol Old Vic studio lying on the stage then giving each other a round of applause in Bowden’s absence.

In this utterly unique and at times hilariously funny one-man show, Bowden plays an undiscovered species – the only one of his kind.

“Everyone is dead, I’m the only one left,” he sings, often accompanying himself with his own voice across the octaves or a vintage Casio keyboard and a natty loop pedal.

Bowden plays a social misfit but of the most entertaining kind and we laugh with him, not at him, as he swaggers across the stage, only half his arms able to move underneath his little green sack (kind of like a sleeping bag), his green socks and an extra shiny bit of stage causing a prat fall that didn’t look like it was in the script but was entirely within character.

Social awkwardness is also a stock in trade here, and it is not just from the effervescent Bowden. Be sure not to catch his eye if you don’t want to be exuberantly clicked at or have your eyeball touched.

Real sadness and poignancy is mixed with hilarity at this early Mayfest highlight.

Before Us is showing at the Bristol Old Vic studio on Saturday, May 16 at 8pm. For more information, visit

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