Asking for a Raise
Reviewed – 3rd July 2018
“The ensemble work produced by this cast was of the highest calibre, and the skill required to pull off this type of work should not be underestimated”
Asking for a Raise is a devised comedy which explores one of the central and perennial demands of office culture; exactly how do you pluck up the courage to ask for a raise? It’s a situation familiar to many of us, although the ‘universal office’ in the piece had more in common with offices of the past than with contemporary work spaces. One of the performers – the excellent Poppy Lawless – mentions her time at a call centre in her programme biography, and this reviewer couldn’t help feeling that the piece would have been taken to the next level by properly drawing on the experiences of these young actors, rather than rehashing an office setting that essentially hasn’t changed since the 1950s.
There’s no doubt that Hugo Aguirre (designer/director) and Franciska Éry (director), ably assisted by Liam Murphy (music), have produced a slick piece of theatre. It is visually arresting and tightly choreographed, with some well-orchestrated set pieces. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of the wonderful formative years of Theatre de Complicité, and there is still a lot of fun to be had within that absurdist European tradition. Again however, there was a feeling of disconnect. It felt like a well-mastered technique, as opposed to an organically-developed theatrical language, unique to this company, and as such, was lacking in soul. The office is, of course, an alienating soulless space, but the subject shouldn’t affect the performance quality. The ensemble work produced by this cast was of the highest calibre, and the skill required to pull off this type of work should not be underestimated. It was just a shame that the substance of the piece was not there for them to work with, and that they were not more present as individuals.
Fifty minutes is an awful lot of time for one relatively flimsy scenario to fill, no matter how much flair there is in its execution, and the script would have benefited from the same attention to detail as its performative realisation. Congratulations though to Poppy Lawless, Imogen Parker (with special mention to her wonderful solo smoky jazz pastiche), Jacob Ward, Jack Westgate and Gemma Wray. It would be exciting to see this gang work together again, taking a few more risks and bringing in some heart.
Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw
Photography by LivLeopard Photography
Asking to a Raise
The Space until 7th July
Previously reviewed at this venue
Reviewed – 23rd April 2018
“Though the pieces are wildly different there is a real sense of cohesiveness to the evening”
Two people emerge like caterpillars from giant white drawstring bags, into a place where there is only floor, and nothingness stretches endlessly either side of them. They do not know if they are asleep, awake or even dead, they do not know their names, they do not know each other. ‘Something from Nothing’ by Lynn-Steven Johanson starts off beautifully, both visually – white bags, white floor, matching white clothes – and in terms of its concept. A space of possibility is created, asking us what we would do if the structures by which we define our existence were suddenly gone. Michael Waller and Athena Bounti work well together, but I would have been interested to see this piece developed further to allow the characters a chance to really interact. I wanted more depth, and the piece needed to be tighter as it began to lag after its opening.
In ‘Less Than 3’ by Tom Kinney, George (Faidon Loumakis) is at a meeting with his match making service. They have found him a better match. He’s happy with Julia, he claims, but they insist he would be four percent happier with Claudine. That’s two weeks less of unhappiness a year, around two years less of unhappiness across a lifetime. This is dating in the digital age. The script is witty and sinister in equal measure, certainly topical in a world dominated by technology and particularly dating apps which promise to find you the love of your life via equations. However again it lags towards the end and both actors struggle to push through this.
In a modern art gallery, a couple watch a film of a man emptying leaves out of a wheelbarrow, sweeping them up, putting them back in and then emptying them out again to start over. Next to him a woman enters and exits the frame, pausing to curl a different scarf around her neck each cycle. Arguments over the value of this kind of art give way into arguments about their own relationship, but the art is not as passive as it appears at first glance. ‘Modern Art’ by Joe Laredo is another really clever piece of writing, quirky and well structured, with a particularly strong ending.
In Tracey Jane Smith’s ‘Meet the Pets’, a young man is bringing his less than keen girlfriend round to his house to meet his beloved pets: Mr. Cuddles, a bow-tie wearing cat and the ever excited Daisy the dog. We are treated to their internal monologues, including their thoughts on the new visitor. This is a funny, effective, visually comedic and well-delivered device by Waller as the cat and Bounti as the dog. However, I didn’t feel like it connected sufficiently with the narrative between the humans, and the two storylines felt somewhat at odds with each other. Because of this the ending feels quite random and unsatisfactory. This is a really clever device that needs to be reworked into a more cohesive narrative.
“You have beautiful skin you know.” This is the first line of ‘But That’s Okay’ by Jenny Mead, a play that charts the trajectory of a relationship in fast forward from getting to know each other to marriage, children, affairs, couples counselling, grandchildren, and on. This is a clever and beautifully truthful portrayal of a relationship, its ups and downs, its excitements and its normality. However the highlight has to be the silent waiter turned to lover turned to marriage counsellor, serving food, dropping condoms, sweeping through the scene as figments of their life together. This worked really well and the comedy in Waller’s delivery of the role offset the tragedy and fragility of many events punctuating their relationship. However I wanted more from the two main actors, a greater commitment to these changing stages of a relationship and a changing and nuanced characterisation to reflect that.
Last but certainly not least, ‘Work’ by Jerusha Green is one of the strongest pieces on stage tonight. In an art gallery, two strangers monologue, isolated, until they crossover with each other. Michael Waller, who is consistently strong, brings a fantastic energy to the stage here and Athena Bounti really shines. Ethereal and troubled, her performance is delicately moving and deeply human. If anything, the piece could benefit from being longer as the second half feels a little rushed and loses clarity in this haste.
These six new works are selected from over six hundred entries submitted to the Reboot Theatre Company. The whole evening is beautifully directed by Franciska Ery. The staging is fantastic throughout, never overdone and perpetually conscious of the space. This is particularly noticeable in the robotic like movements used in ‘Something from Nothing’ and the staging choices in ‘Work’, two isolated people overlapping in the same space. Though the pieces are wildly different there is a real sense of cohesiveness to the evening.
As a whole, the pieces lack pace, and the gaps mean they are able to meander and lag in a way that does not do the writing justice. As a result, many pieces fall short of their potential. However this is a really interesting showcase of clever, moving and witty writing, delivered by some really strong performances and supported by fantastic direction.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown