The Here and This and Now
Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
From 09 March 2017 to 25 March 2017
Review by Karen Bussell
It’s all about the pitch. Life that is.
Plymouth-born journalism lecturer, editor and playwright Glenn Waldron’s The Here and This and Now explores the dark side of persuasion, creating moments in time and the eternal quest for happiness.
Commissioned by Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Artistic Director Simon Stokes and debuted in TRP’s intimate Drum, Waldron’s premise was diverse and fourfold: how do world events influence personal happiness? How do tiny moments define lives? Does the fact that nothing turns out as expected impact on our life stories and is it true that anti-microbial resistance is a ticking time bomb?
The result: a three act, 80-minute presentation of moments building one upon the other culminating in a glimpse of a shiny Brave New World where happiness is a given. But at what price?
Sales coach Niall (Simon Darwen) tells a beguiling tale of a spur-of-the-moment abandonment of the daily grind—Bracknell, Bicester and bacon sarnies—risking the wrath of his boss to take his convalescent son to Diggerland but worth it for that moment of joy on Jack’s face. But all is not as it seems.
Charming tales from his team—featuring Gemma’s One Direction-obsessed niece and Robby’s cross-dressing Frozen (ironically as it transpires) fan nephew—are clearly in the same mould and designed to captivate the target to move ahead of the slithering line of slippery sales reps to close in for the kill.
Sharply observed interplay, with chemistry fizzing, between Gemma (Jessica Clark) and failed rock star medic Robby (Andy Rush) predicts a future which doesn’t quite turn out as expected and adds much-needed humour to the abounding black comedy.
A high octane awayday, bursting with McCabe’s pharmaceutical sales team-building exercises and personality tests, practices the creation of Everyday Moments to ensure access to the senior practitioners to sell a three-point-two per cent cheaper product to clear liver spots. Tough competition means the pitch must be honed to stand-out perfection: captivate, associate, detonate, kill.
It’s energetic stuff involving chanting, balls, chairs… and lies.
Poor dowdy Helen (a mesmerising Becci Gemmell) can’t make it up—other than possibly the long-remembered ‘moment’ shared with Niall—and, although failing miserably at the task, finds an alternative, somewhat surprising, use for her sales pitch skills in years to come when things haven’t turned out as expected by anyone except perhaps the 2013 Chief Medical Officer.
Bullish mentors turn gatekeeper, incipient romance may die but leaves a legacy and learned skills may be practised on a captive audience.
Bob Bailey’s bland, stark set underlines the hard-edge trade-off where emotion is irrelevant and there is no place for the personal unless it can be utilised for the ultimate pay-off.
Deliberately disjointed and difficult, Waldron’s vision is disturbing and bleak with moments to savour but overall falling somewhat short of the mark.