Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Maggie is the office manager that has decided to leave whilst she is trying for a baby with husband Gordon. All around her are candidates to become the new office manager but they all have significant foibles. Katie is depressed, Dennis is unable to stop being the class clown, Josie is on reception but keeps forgetting that people are on hold, Malcolm was struck off as a psychiatrist at some point and our final character is just a gal that seems to keep finding a good time. Eventually a new manager is chosen and we are off to a new beginning…
We begin with Josie and Malcolm onstage and pretty soon the day begins as the rest start to arrive. Maggie’s arrival sparks some office style meeting, the like of which I have witnessed often enough before and cringe at the memory. As the day progresses we see the interplay between each of the characters and when Gordon arrives to see his wife but ends up trying to help with her fertilisation we begin on a downward spiral that is helped along with Maggie’s announcement that she is leaving before we slip into alcohol fuelled office mayhem. It is all left for the new office manager to resolve and resolve it he will as he starts as he means to go on and firmly establish a break from Maggie’s reign.
There are many themes and issues in this piece and most of them are dealt with in a manner which is fairly flimsy. For example whilst I liked the depression scene where the Mindcap questionnaire is used I felt there was far more in the way of comedy to be mined there – if you pardon the pun. Relationships between the characters never really get beyond the superficial whilst there is an underlying understanding of comedy. It would be helped by the exploration of the pathos of each character. It just felt at times we were seeing the surface of people rather than their deep and meaningful selves.
All of the performances were impressive and particularly I thought Josie, who looked about 14 at the start grew on me over time and her acting proved that she was just as grown up as the rest; in fact far more mature than some. This became an impressive exercise in how characters drive performance rather than react to the dialogue and scenes written for them. Whilst the lines were indeed rather flimsy it just felt like the actors had a better idea of how their character should behave and develop.
It was very well staged and the environment downstairs at the Space on North Bridge was ideal for it. It provided the necessary claustrophobia as well as a suitable backdrop to the stench of ambition that comes with being held back by those you view as less capable than yourself. The set was equally functional as convincing with no doubt as to where we were.
As a company this collective of East 15 actors would appear to have a bright future. I would suggest they need to look at bigger themes and with bolder statements than this but you can see how their comedy would work if given full reign. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and will certainly be looking out for them should they ever return north of the border again.