Review: Never Trust a Man Bun

3 star rating
Based on a neat and interesting plot device, this is a well-directed play with commendable performances, but lacks real comedic bite to contrast effectively with the darker moments.
Never Trust a Man Bun at Stockwell Playhouse

Image: Stockwell Playhouse

Closes here: Sunday 24 March 2019

Katherine Thomas

Scott Le Crass


Natasha Grace Hutt - Rachael

Jack Forsyth Noble - Caps

Katherine Thomas - Lucy

Calum Robshaw - Gus


When Lucy gets back from work one night, only to find that flat-mate Gus has gotten back together with his ditsy ex-girlfriend Rachael and that they have decided to hold a double date that night, Lucy is far from pleased.

However, what she doesn't expect is her hot date is coming in with a game plan, one which surely cannot end well.

Katherine Thomas' professional writing debut is a dry, dark sitcom with hidden motives and self-destruction.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Monday 18 March 2019
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For those not in the habit of following or knowing terms for fashion trends in the hair department, a 'man bun' is (according to Fashionbeans) a hair style that "features a ponytail or bunch of hair, bundled together somewhere on the crown".

The style seems to have had something of a bad press, and possibly not exactly flavour of the month among the barber-going public.

That might have been the motivation for writer Katherine Thomas to turn her hand to writing a play about a man who wears his hair in the manner described.

Well, Never Trust a Man Bun is not merely about one person but four, even if the one sporting the hair-do in question is the villain of the piece.

The first few lines between Katherine Thomas's Lucy and Calum Robshaw's Gus were rattled-off at something approximating machine gun rate - suggesting the almost anticipated running time of 75 minutes might collapse to nearer 10.

First night nerves might have played a part, but thankfully the cast quickly adjusted their delivery to a more natural conversational rhythm, whilst avoiding a drift into the territory of the turgidly pedestrian.

So the remainder of the play felt appropriately paced for dialogue between four twenty-somethings.

The basic idea here is that Lucy and Gus share a flat.

There's no hint of romance between them since we're assured (at least to start with) that they're just good friends.

On arrival back at their abode after work, Lucy discovers that Gus has got back with ex-girlfriend, Rachael, who Lucy dislikes.

And, to make matters worse, Rachael has arranged a double-date with Lucy paired-up with Caps - the man with the man bun.

The trust element enshrined in the title comes into focus in a neat and interesting plot twist where Caps has no intention of playing ball in being paired-off with Lucy.

The remainder of the play is about how Caps' devilish plan unfolds and eventually turns out.

There are plenty of positive aspects in this debut play from Ms Thomas.

The basic plot is more than enough to carry the entire proceedings and to maintain interest throughout with an inherently novel aspect to the well-worn idea of double-dating.

Furthermore, the show is well-cast and the performances provide distinct, believable characterisations, aided by Scott Le Crass's tightly-focused direction.

In terms of its overall appeal, though, the play lacks the real comedic bite to contrast with the darker elements of the story.

There is a funny running joke about Caps' relationship with his sister which he uses to wring sympathy from the other characters.

But other jokes don't work so well.

For example, there's quite a long sequence devoted to Rachael's teaming of crisps and pretzels as a kind of innovative culinary endeavour which is meant to demonstrate that she is somewhat 'ditsy', but it just comes across as being weak - in almost the style of lacklustre TV sitcoms.

The essential situation that the play offers is one that many people will readily identify with, and in that sense it already offers significant appeal and some novelty too.

With some developmental tweaks to ramp-up the gags to extract more potent humour, this could turn out to be a hilarious comedy drama.

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