This astonishingly constructed play lasts a packed one hour and twenty minutes, without interval. Its brevity is audience friendly since the construction and general nature of the script demands continuous concentration and, even more to the point, sympathy.
A note on the text tells us a little more:
buckets can be performed by any number and composition of actors.
Gender, where referenced in dialogue, can generally be switched…some singular voices can be made plural
A line that’s just an ellipsis (…) is a moment where a speaker
- wants to communicate but can’t, or
- communicates without words, or
- refuses to communicate, or
- is otherwise occupied
The play opens with a doctor telling someone that of course it’s up to them, it’s their decision:
‘There are different schools of thought. About how clearly a child this age can understand the idea of–– the concept of –– their own death. About whether to know, is to add depression and anxiety to an existing suffering. Whereas some judge that the best thing, the right thing, is simple honesty.’
The play takes you through the events that follow this opening, but the dialogue, although it conveys these events, often sounds like a continuation, starting each time from a slightly different viewpoint, of the discussion that began the play.
The audience laughed often but it was the laughter of those who recognise, and sympathise with, those who are passing through appallingly painful events evoked by brief allusions rather than developed speeches.
I write as someone who has recently gone through the situation shown in this play, although, not, thank goodness, with a child.
This play is about loss, but also about celebration of what is being lost. It is also a celebration of the idea of a bucket list – things to do before you die.
Some segments of the play as written fall below the standard set by its best moments. But
it is abundantly worth seeing. As a play about death should be, it is full of life.