Work

Sam Rumbelow
The Actors Ensemble
Courtyard Theatre
(2008)

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Despite its title this is not really a play about work, though at one point it does contrast an office cleaner's job with that of having to decide on the finish of door furnishings for a new housing development. It takes a handful of people, all except one shown first in their working environment, and intercuts brief scenes introducing them while images on three projection screens are used to suggest changes of location and add a little colour to the black box setting of the theatre and Simon Kenny's design of black cubes which double as seats, desks, tables and park benches arranged in ranks over the acting area.

At the opening Ben Bird's video uses shots of feet on pavements and commercial building facades to establish a sense of city bustle and the blankness of business response but plays no narrative part in the production. However Sam Rumbelow's direction makes use of the hanging screens to shape attractive groupings with his cast. Though Rumbelow is given the writer's credit the piece is also given as devised by the ensemble and, like some other pieces to which many have contributed, the first half does seem very fragmented with no central idea or argument and its brief scenes giving actors limited opportunity to establish and develop their characters. Performances range from subdued and mumbled to the histrionic, though Julian Rivett, as a mobile phone obsessed suit, and Amy Steel as a Bulgarian illegal immigrant made theirs seen very real.

The second act, which reveals cross-relationships between the characters already seen and presents them in longer and more interesting dialogues, sees the cast producing much more rounded performances but the result is nevertheless a rather slight work for the product of what the programme suggests has been nearly four years in development by the company. The first night audience obviously found it much more satisfying than I did and gave it an enthusiastic reception.

The company present the play with style and work well together. I look forward to them handling something with a little more to say.

Until 26th October 2008

Reviewer: Howard Loxton