Perched on the grim upholstery of a liberated bus seat, Molly Taylor is here to tell us stories, and to illuminate the stories of the men and women who we pass by without a thought on buses and trains across the country. That’s the pitch, and there are moments in which the innate charm of the concept is matched by Taylor’s rambling narrative, but more often we’re gridlocked in a traffic jam of faintly solipsistic pining.
Molly met the love of her life on a random piss-up with her best friend, and the randomness of the encounter and of any encounter where two perfect strangers weld together and change each others lives became a minor obsession. Attributing the serendipity to a sort of butterfly effect of bus drivers, she decides to track down the faceless drivers who delivered her down that fateful (bus) route to her lover. Molly’s story is interspersed with two others, and the story of a young performer searching for his inspiration is skilfully told, but the significance of cabbies and train drivers to their narratives is pretty oblique.
The last ten minutes are filled with some genuinely touching tributes to the unsung heroes of our transport infrastructure but far too much of the running time is spent with them waiting in the wings while Molly rhapsodises about her love-life. Molly’s quest to congratulate the bus drivers who brought her to her beau begins to feel more than a little narcissistic, a displacement activity for love-sick navel-gazing. ‘We are travelling lovers, setting alight small tea-shops’, she wistfully recalls. Hmm. It’s a lovers prerogative to place themselves at the centre of the universe, but it runs counter to the humility of Molly’s stated aim. She describes drivers as ‘heroic’, but if they are then this is an Aeneid where Virgil spends his time reflecting on the influence of Aeneas on his sex life.
Molly is a warm story-teller, a chatty scouser with an alluring rhythm to her speech, but there’s not enough here to make for an entertaining hour. Her observations are more strained than profound, her romantic gesture invalidated by its transformation into theatre. The piece is always straining, straining for those numinous details that bring a story to life, but it rarely finds them. Love has the power to illuminate a teashop or canonise the cabbie who drove you to your soul-mate, but unfortunately this love letter does not.