A meeting with management looms for three colleagues in a downsizing company. They know that somebody has to go and, as they gather beforehand, it becomes apparent that Isobel and Tony have decided Thomas will be the sacrificial lamb.

This is where Abbey Theatre’s new production of Bull, the Olivier Award winning play by Mike Bartlett, begins.

The two begin a barrage of insults, innuendo and uninvited physical contact, aimed at undermining and overwhelming him with echoes of a matador taunting a bull.

The director of Bull, Rosemary Goodman, tells me that they had hoped to use a bull ring but the studio was too small.

“We have chosen a fight cage for our arena, because it is important that the acting space is claustrophobic and restricting for the actors.”

She adds how says the play has echoes of BBC 1’s The Apprentice, that presents workplace bullying as entertainment and encourages us to become voyeurs of suffering.

“It’s obvious that the three colleagues do not work as a team, and that one of them will not survive the cull. The audience waits for their boss to arrive and put a stop to the cruelty. Meanwhile they witness the systematic and relentless bullying of Thomas, who is slowly weakened by their constant jibes, sarcasm and critical personal comments. Thomas’s fate lies with the boss.

“We are acutely aware that the subject matter may affect some members of the public, so we warmly invite our audiences to the bar after the show, to meet the cast and discuss the play and the issues arising from it.”

Working with such an emotive text has certainly affected Rosemary and the cast in their daily lives. Naomi Jamboretz, who plays the vicious Isobel, notes that: “Outside of rehearsal, I have found that bullying is at the forefront of my mind, and have noticed that it is ever present.”

Workplace bullying is a widespread issue and costs UK business £2 billion a year, despite anti-bullying policies across the private and public sectors.

The team behind Bull have given the topic careful thought throughout the reheasral process, pondering that there could be an Isobel and a Tony in nearly every workplace, as well as a Thomas. They ask of us all: Which are you?

Abbey Theatre, Westminster Lodge, Holywell Hill, AL1 2DL, Friday, January 20 to Sunday, January 22 and Tuesday, January 24 until Saturday, January 28. Details: 01727 857861