Saturday, 29 July 2017
Peter Barker enjoys an ambitious and energetic production where the workplace becomes a battlefield.
by Mariko Primarolo
Work Is A Drug
Banners Corporation is marketing a new product, an emotion-manipulating drug treating soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress, especially after service in wars overseas.
Yet, according to the marketing, it has wider applications, for the liquid appears to calm and to concentrate the mind wonderfully
Invevitably though, there are other less desirable side effects.
This is the intriguing premise of Southwark Playhouse Young Company's latest offering at the South London venue.
Playwright Mariko Primarolo combines this plot with another analysing the competitive nature of modern-day internships.
Banners recruits four interns but only promises to give one of them a permanent job. For many in the Millenials' generation now, this is certainly not an exaggeration but reality.
Beast is performed energetically, directed by Chelsea Walker in a vibrant but unfocussed production.
At its best, it is a wry, sharply-observed and trenchant look at corporate culture and marketing where there is often an inextricable link between the office and bullshit.
In truth, while the problem has become magnified for graduates and others in today's economy, there is an honourable tradition of plays in previous generations making the same kind of points as Primarolo about young people's employment.
For example John Biyrne's examination of apprentices, The Slab Boys, written in the 1970s but hearking back, even if it was an era of full employment, two decades before that.
Despite Beast's initial good, clear idea, the play and production need more crafting as the switching back and forth between individual story lines feels awkward and are hard to follow.
The writer's promise to "enable everyone in the company to showcase their talents", while an admirable intention, leads to a muddled overall dramatic arc. Director Walker could have done with pacing the play in a more nuanced way.
There's plenty of talent on show, particularly Olive Supple-Still as intern Max, and the cast as a whole works well together. There are highlights - notably when the disgruntled workforce mutinies against the management
while the production does sometimes lose its way, there's certainly value in seeing it before the last performance on July 29 and enough in it to make an amber light.