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Be Prepared review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘quietly moving’

Ian Bonar in Be Prepared. Photo: Richard Davenport for The Other Richard Ian Bonar in Be Prepared. Photo: Richard Davenport for The Other Richard

Performing in his own first play, Ian Bonar creates a portrait of a man floundering in a whirl of unexpressed emotions, who begins to find his way to peace through the most unlikely of rescuers.

Occasionally sitting at a table but mainly rushing about the bare stage as uncontrolled feelings drive him, the solo speaker tries to talk about the several things in his mind at once, sometimes so tongue-tied that he turns to the portable keyboard he carries to try to express his feelings in music.

The strands of his story slowly separate. He was annoyed by a string of wrong-number calls from a confused elderly man, and was only able to identify the caller just before he died. Inexplicably drawn to the man’s funeral, he can’t understand why he was so moved, especially since he didn’t react so strongly to his own father’s death not too long before. Of course this second death, safely enough removed from him that he can deal with it, is releasing the blocked emotions of the first, letting him mourn his father through the intermediary.

Both as writer and performer Bonar guides the audience to see this before the speaker does, so that even though the man is not there yet at the end of Be Prepared, we are allowed to leave the quietly moving play with the hope that he is on his way up.

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Touching solo play watches an emotionally confused man begin to cope with grief