Bangers @ Summerhall

Bangers is a flawless combination of music, direction, and storytelling

Review by Gabriel von Spreckelsen | 14 Aug 2023
  • Bangers

Rushing in late is never a good look on a theatre reviewer, so we're incredibly grateful that Summerhall, home of Bangers, is easy to navigate. If you want to see shows at a theatrical complex without complexity (we’re theatre-lovers, not explorers), forget Pleasance and go to Summerhall. 

Music plays before the actors speak: Bangers grows from bass and vocals like a tree from earth. Danusia Samal’s script/libretto achieves what Sondheim and Shakespeareans merely attempt: verse dialogue which sounds natural. Everything springs from music, from the narrator DJ (Duramaney Kamara) to characters’ names, like Aria, Clef, Beat, and Tone. Songs and scenes flow into each other as Aria (Samal) and Clef’s (Jim Caesar) parallel narratives collide. Performed in the round, Bangers draws in audience members like a tornado of garage-orchestrated storytelling.

Bangers crystallises the influence of sexual awakenings on Clef’s future and Aria’s past: Clef’s friendship ripens from innocence; devastation cramps Aria’s singing muscles. Whilst romance frustrates both protagonists’ ambitions, it is secondary character Tone who best embodies the conflict: he rejects gratification in favour of musical success, which he considers his sole route to upward mobility. Nevertheless, chaos is also liberation in this play, with Aria and Clef living for and because of their music.

Chris Sonnex’s direction is superb, where a quartet of boxes spin, tip and stack to indicate a suitcase, a bedroom, a doorway, a stage. An emotionless sex scene sees Samal and Caesar on opposite sides of the stage, making love to boxes instead of each other. In fact, nowhere is there a weak link: Bangers is a flawless collaboration in all departments. It would be even better if this intimate play could be performed directly to my face. Arrive early, sit near the speakers. Surprise, surprise: it’s a banger.

Bangers, Summerhall, until 27 Aug, 6.50pm, £13-15