Anyone who has hit a serious low in their life will tell you that there are people desperate to take advantage of it. For every well-meaning support group, there is a book or a diet or a fad that seeks to take advantage of your loneliness and low self-esteem. Bounce is about just that, in the form of Jesse, a cultish self-help guru who preys on those who feel they have nowhere to turn. Visiting Jesse’s show is Sylvia, whose son Elliot passed away after stopping his anti-depressants on Jesse’s advice. This is a piece of theatre that undoubtedly needs to be made, shining a light on an insidious industry that takes advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and the anger that fuels Sylvia is also felt by the audience as we watch Jesse thrive off the unhappiness of his acolytes.

Anger, however, only gets you so far. This play is righteous, but needs a little more development in order to sustain an audience’s attention. Although the question of who Elliot (the son) is and what happened to him remains unclear for a large portion of the play, the dynamic is clear from the beginning. Jesse, the braggadocious, self-inflated idol with his empty words, is the enemy, and Sylvia, bereaved mother, is in the right. Yet figures like Jesse aren’t always so clear-cut. There is scope for a really interesting show here – I found myself wondering what would happen if they could convince the audience at the start that Jesse was on their side, only to slowly turn the tables as they were turned on Elliot? There was a really exciting moment early on where the audience responded to Jesse, shouting ‘aye!’ when he wanted us to – sustaining that investment in him would make for a more powerful pay-off more similar to how Sylvia felt about the man who was initially her son’s saviour. Cults are, after all, enticing. I wanted to know how Sylvia and Elliot saw Jesse before everything went so wrong, so that I could really believe it.

Tom Derrington’s dialogue is strong – plenty of laughs, and a really impassioned ending that finally lets the mild-mannered Sylvia explode with the rage and grief she has been holding inside of her. And yet that rage and grief has been the dominant tone of the play from the beginning.  There is huge room for development in this play – right now it just feels like it needs a little more texture.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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