Theatre Review: Once Upon a Bridge at Lace Market Theatre

Words: Ian Kingsbury
Thursday 01 February 2024
reading time: min, words

Ian Kingsbury reviews Once upon A Bridge at the Lace Market Theatre...


Just before 8am on 5 May 2017, Oliver Salbris drove his number 430 bus over Putney Bridge in London. Thankfully travelling slowly due to heavy rush hour traffic, he was able to swerve to avoid a woman who fell into the path of his bus.

But the woman’s fall was no accident. Dashboard footage revealed a jogger – a stocky white male  running towards the women - make a sudden, inexplicable and wholly unpredictable decision to shove her, with violent force, into the path of the bus. On doing so, and without breaking stride, he carried on running, not even glancing back to see the near-miss he had so callously caused.

Following this shockingly random act of violence, the police and myriad internet sleuths attempted to uncover the identity of the mystery jogger, quickly dubbed the “Putney Pusher”. Perhaps just as mysterious as his motivation for recklessly endangering the life of a total stranger is how he has never been caught. The crime took place in London, one of most surveilled cities in the world, with almost 700,000 of the UK’s 5.2 million CCTV cameras.

Commissioned to write a new work for the Druid theatre company in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Sonya Kelly chose the bizarre incident of the “Putney Pusher” as her jumping off point for this speculative game of “what if?”.

and we are quickly sucked into the unfolding drama as the three narratives

This adaptation by the Lace Market Theatre presents three unnamed characters’ points of view: the jogger (Luke Willis) late for a crucial interview in the City who comes to realise he can’t change what happened, much as he has bent the truth in the past; the woman (Clare Moss) striding over the bridge, on her way to an interview in the hope of embarking on her legal career, and left asking “why me?”; and the bus driver (Gurmej Virk) under pressure to finish his morning shift on time who faces a much bigger problem of trying to make sense of how close he came to a fatal accident.

Directed by Beverley Anthony – in what I was told is her swansong as a Lace Market Director  – the staging is simple with clever use of footage projected onto a backdrop, including an excellent documentary put together by the crew which played before the drama started, to bring us up to speed on the crazy split second which inspired the play.

We begin with a series of monologues, through which we get to know our three protagonists as they prepare for the day ahead. All three actors give compelling, fully realised performances and we are quickly sucked into the unfolding drama as the three narratives, unbeknownst to everyone involved, hurtle inexorably towards each other.


I found this production genuinely thought-provoking, with all three actors fully inhabiting their characters and giving brilliantly paced performances that kept the audience rapt, with some wry chuckles along the way thanks to some lovely comic timing.  

The play has been described as a fairytale. Whilst there is a lot of poetic licence with the internal lives of the characters, and a notably karmic comeuppance for the jogger which one can only hope actually happened, at its heart is a fascinating tension between the alienating nature of modern city living, and the enforced proximity to others that all too often brings out the very worst of our natures.

Whilst this production is sold out, the Lace Market theatre have a packed schedule over the next few months if you fancy some quality local theatre.

Once Upon a Bridge plays at the Lace Market Theatre from Thursday Feb 1st to Saturday Feb 3rd 2024.

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