Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Alternately interesting and mind-numbing, Ideas Men does a good job of making one feel as if one actually worked an office job at a soul-crushing corporation. Is this good theatre? If one is coming at live entertainment from the perspective of wanting to make an audience emote in tandem with the characters, then certainly Ideas Men hits the mark.
One cannot help but feel for the plight of main characters Mike Mullet and Liam Brady (played Jon Hough & David Woods). Certainly, most audience members seemed to enjoy the humour the pair of professional brainstormers use to help the time pass - humour ranging from role-playing double entendres to fart jokes.
Hough and Woods relate well to one another in terms of playing off one another's timing and physicality, but the script doesn't actually contribute much to any kind of bigger discussion about how so-called "creatives" are forced into the "industrialization" of their, erm, talents.
Fine, so maybe Ideas Men isn't meant to be deep social commentary. Looking only at the humour angle, how does it rate? It's not a highbrow affair, full of verbal witticisms. Rather, the funniest moments in Ideas Men are those in which the performers take advantage of their physicality - speeding around the stage on wheeled chairs, or cramming sandwiches and éclairs into their mouths. It's strange that with such strong physically comedic performances, the actors aren't better at distinguishing their multiple characters (though this could be argued, perhaps successfully, to relate more to the play's "surprise" ending).
Somehow, Ideas Men manages to have a plot that is both painfully thin and overly convoluted, making it difficult if not impossible to care about the characters despite the actors' likable natures.
Maybe the key to understanding Ideas Men is in a comment overheard from one audience member as he and his confused companion departed the theatre: "It's like Waiting for Godot, but in an office."
Then again, maybe not.
Jackie Fletcher reviewed this show at BAC.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody