Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“A madcap frenzy of physical comedy with political bite. In this absurd office, avoiding the skeletons in the stationery cupboard is crucial. Rearrange the furniture, leap over the desks, then experiment with origami and orchestrate a four-part symphony using spreadsheet data. Witness these businesspeople crawl up the walls of their office in search of inspiration for their distraction.”
Four people in grey suits and ties, hands flat on a line of white tables. They are silent and motionless. Slowly their faces morph into butoh style grimaces of pain. Next they all lean back with slight squeals. It’s clear that this is not going to be a comedy in the true sense of clown, but there is humor and irony emanating from this piece told through the excellent physical acting, timing and crafting of the storytelling. This is dramatic (and bizarre) stuff and soon the team starts work in their clinical looking office.
These colleagues do speak, but it’s minimal and economic “Right, great, OK”. Their reactions to each other are fascinating. Someone has a briefcase and one wonders what people keep in their briefcases but in another question, what do people do working in an office. This new group Silent Faces have explored these questions and come up with some of the answers! However it becomes clearer as the show progresses that this is an odd office and business structure. Just as in the real business world with today’s political situation and challenging financial times the higher ups have many issues to deal with on a daily basis. This company is no different and tackles social politics and plan measures to reduce costs in novel ways.
The four employees are kept on their toes. They express themselves through physical acting and gestures, which become more abstract as times. The performers are very skilled at physical acting and always in sync with each other. The way they strip away dialogue and replace it with abstract action is excellent. Also, the arc from the beginning to the end becomes more humanistic – with a serious denouement.
As in all offices there is a hierarchy and it appears there is someone in the group who just about fits that job description in this department, anyway. Their characteristics are idiosyncratic and not pushed too much, they look authentic (in a retro way) and they have contrasting personalities. Watching their mannerisms develop and show more is a delight and adds depth to the piece. There’s the friendly middle aged woman with hair piled on her head in a loose bus, she wears stylish spectacles and is always ready with a warm self-effacing smile. Another character in a wide shouldered light grey suit – a size or two too big – has slicked back hair and seems ready to move up the career ladder.
Music and rhythm play a big part of this show, which includes several excerpts from well-chosen classical music pieces. A boring business meeting becomes more interesting and motivating to listen to when rhymes that everyone can understand are added. It’s a welcome break to their day and its very funny, a simple idea plus the group’s ingenuity becomes very entertaining!
They are having fun and just like in the movies when there is a party or everyone is happy, something happens! A door slams and something really does happen. A new character arrives and goes towards the filing cabinet. This brings a reaction from the audience but the employees have seen this before and they freeze and contort. They are not happy about this person invading their space, but then they continue with office rituals and the usual office politics.
Their movement is crisp with attention to detail and the piece is well developed. The ensemble movement is superb, even in a tight space that works for this piece. Suffice it to say there are some manic moments that will surprise. It’s all part of today’s corporate environment.