Pros: Director Andy Sava adds depth and striking visual elements to Alexandra Badea’s compelling lines.
Cons: The play deserves a bigger auditorium and the beautifully designed set a larger stage.
Two men and two women, coming from the most diverse backgrounds, are employed in different sectors of the same multinational company. A Call Centre Team Leader from Dakar (Solomon Israel) attempts to inculcate a proper French culture into his subordinates to offer a better service to the customers. A Research and Development Engineer from Bucharest (Kate Miles) strives for a promotion, while juggling career and motherhood. A Quality Assurance of Subcontractors Manager from Lyon (Richard Corgan) travels relentlessly across the globe, relying on Skype to maintain a relationship with his wife and child. A Factory Worker from Shanghai (Rebecca Boey) is trapped in an exhausting and inhuman routine. For all of them, the days go past at a breakneck pace, and they’re all ground down by the urgent need to succeed professionally while leading increasingly numbed private lives. To use their own words, they are ‘pulverised by the space’, their clocks are ticking fast and they can’t afford to stop. Their stories eventually cross and, finally, converge towards the same sickening conclusion.
When we are admitted into the auditorium, the room resounds with a roaring noise and the four characters are lying on an irregular floor of crumbled rubber, among scattered pieces of office chairs and computer screens. More screens and computer motherboards are hanging off the ceiling, and the wall at the back is cracked, with a big hole in the middle. The scene is suddenly interrupted by an electronic soundtrack. Apocalyptic images of a buzzing city are projected on the background, while the bodies rise from the floor and start to convulse in dance.
The rhythm of the performance is frenetic but enjoyable and some desperate references to a precarious life–work balance are disturbingly familiar. With the use of prominent projections and Ashley Ogden’s aggressive musical score, director Andy Sava breathes life into the script’s urgent lines. The side effects of globalisation are a hot topic and Alexandra Badea finds a compelling format to convey snippets of information with critical intent. There are some references to infamous recurring issues, like the suicide spate in Chinese factories and the so-called ‘Sumangali system’, which sees young Indian women employed in textile factories with the mere promise of a dowry after three years of employment. In Badea’s world, everyone is a victim of global mass production, and the managers suffer as much as the labourers or the qualified workers.
The acting is strong and all the characters feel well-developed, with a remarkable level of accuracy and realism. Every production value reiterates their uncomfortable anxiety, which resonates long after the end of the performance.
My only regret is that such an authentic and well-depicted drama wasn’t presented in front of a larger audience and that Nicolai Hart-Hansen’s simple but original set didn’t benefit from a wider stage.
Author: Alexandra Badea
Translated By: Lucy Phelps
Director: Andy Sava
Producer: Arcola Theatre, Changing Face and York Theatre Royal
Box Office: 020 7503 1646
Booking Link: https://www.arcolatheatre.com/book/?bookingId=02-2017%3A002&eventId=22578&season=0
Booking Until: 27 May 2017