Coal Mine Theatre’s Bull is Chilling — You’ll Need a Drink
The gloves come off as three employees battle for two jobs at Toronto’s Coal Mine Theatre on the Danforth. This corporate horror called Bull will send shivers down your back: you’ll witness how the upcoming downsizing brings out the worst in two workplace bullies.
As we walk into this basement theatre (which is downstairs from The Magic Oven), we already know there won’t be much niceness to be observed: the angry music got me into fight-or-flight mode before the performance even started. To make the setting even darker, the arena-like theatre had us sitting in a U-shape around the stage, and with the mesh walls around it, the stage was like a ring. Perfect for bloody office combat. (While I didn’t mind the mesh, my guest found it a bit cumbersome to see through and questioned its necessity.)
Mike Bartlett’s disturbing tale brings together a manipulative Isobel (Diana Bentley), obnoxious Tony (Damon Runyan), and the poor schmuck Thomas (Ryan Rogerson). Isobel and Tony are the good-looking partners in crime as they torment Thomas by calling him a “flabby little thing” and questioning his choice of clothes. “Is that your best suit?” gets repeated throughout the performance. Sadly, the evil pair finds endless things about Thomas to mock, including his dandruff, his father’s profession, his inability to stand up to them, and so much more. They even hurt him professionally by doing what all colleagues from hell do such as keeping instructions to themselves.
I was particularly impressed with the suave, narcissistic Tony and his well executed push-ups. It’s not easy to do planks on two moving objects! His tailored jacket and shiny shoes went perfectly with this arrogant smirk. So despicable, yet so believable.
Spoiler alert: nice guys finish last in Bull. Thomas ends up getting fired, and Tony manages to squeeze in a few more insults before leaving. What’s worse, Isobel gets physically violent as her way of bidding farewell. I found this scene to be long, excessive and too unrealistic. I expected the play to be over after the announcement of Thomas’s departure, so I got impatient when it dragged on and became sadistic.
All in all, it was good. Come see Bull for its horrifying story, fine acting and well chosen costumes. I recommend that you come a bit early, buy something to quench your thirst from The Magic Oven, and bring it down with you. You’ll need a drink.
- Bull is playing at the Coal Mine Theatre in Toronto at 798 Danforth Avenue (between Pape and Jones)
- Bull is playing until April 5 at 7:30 every night except Mondays
- Ticket prices range from $20 to $25
- Tickets can be purchased online and a limited number of tickets are available at the door
Photo of Damon Runyan by Michael Cooper