Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Jo, a senior manager, has to perform head of department, Nicky’s work appraisal. Nicky just wants to get on with her job. The cliché about work reviews is that there should be no surprises – that certainly isn’t true of this well acted and paced comedy.
It’s that time again – performance review, time for an open, honest appraisal of your work performance. Or is it? In a deft two-hander, Appraisal, examines the territory of the appraisal. Jo is a senior manager whose job it is to appraise Nicky who would obviously rather be elsewhere. Beneath the formal appraisal, darker undercurrents play out and what’s not said is as important as what’s said. What is supposed to be an open and honest two way conversation quickly shows itself to be about a man with power using his privilege to bully and intimidate.
The humour is in the familiarity and turning it on its head; the clichés come thick and fast, exposing themselves as meaningless corporate speak. Nicki’s intelligence and integrity. It provides a rich seam of laughs.
Nicholas Collet is superb as Jo – slimy, cringeworthy and thoroughly untrustworthy. He builds the character slowly from a straightforward characterisation of a rather conventional line manager to develop an undercurrent of innuendo and manipulation. Angela Bull plays the unfortunate appraisee who initially tries to play the game, but increasingly is frustrated by both what Jo says and what she knows about what’s going on in the office but isn’t said. Their movement as he circles round her and she moves away is well plotted and impeccably timed.
Appraisal premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2022. It’s written by award-winning writer, Timothy Marriott, who’s a veteran of the Fringe with sold-out performances with his shows “Mengele”, “Shell Shock” and “Watson: The Final Problem”. Appraisal, his latest play, is well scripted and paced, with great comic build up and timing. Marriott has taken familiar territory and imbued it with wit and insight.
Like so many Fringe shows it suffers from its venue. While it’s a show that suits a small, intimate staging, it could do without the outside noise interference and the constricted lighting rigs that mean that there’s always a glare to the audience. While this doesn’t clip the wings of this adept production, it would be good to see it given a better space.
A two-hander, well performed and written, with a steady stream of gags and a more serious underlying message about power and privilege, Appraisal, is definitely recommended.