Pros: The heart-warming stories and the humane and relatable depiction of characters.
Cons: Lasting almost two and a half hours, it became a be a bit too long.
According to a research study published by the Manpower Group, job security is critical for the generation of people born between 1982 and 2004, commonly referred to as Millennials. The report goes on stating that “like the Traditionalists before them, they want the security of full-time work to ensure they can maintain their standard of living.” And still, to secure a decently paid job that offers a reasonable work-life balance can be mission impossible in today’s Britain.
To the generations before the Millennial, work conditions were different, as Significant Other Inc. shows us. Set in April 1988, the show is made of 10 short plays, all taking place in the premises of Reseal 9, a packaging factory located somewhere in an unnamed town in the industrial North of England. Margaret Thatcher is in power and is the longest-serving UK Prime Minister of the century. She’s been in office for more than 8 years, shaking the foundations of Britain’s life and economy. Each of the short plays is a snippet of a closely knit workplace where everyone knows each other. As the background story we have the retirement party of Jack (John Rayment), one of the veteran workers at Reseal 9. While his leaving card is passed around the building for everyone to sign it, we encounter the different employees of the factory: we meet the union leader, the trainee, the boss and his secretary, the engineers, the cleaners… Reseal 9 is a microcosm where life happens and which is vital to the town’s existence.
Significant Other Inc. is a collection of heart-warming stories that irradiate nostalgia for a past where job security and a sense of community were the norm. It gives us a romanticised vision of factory work where even the boss is not as bad as one would expect. Although still strict and down to business, Nigel (Anthony Cozens) is also a kind of father figure who looks after his workers and values the community that his factory has created. He is omnipresent on a corner of the stage during all the stories. Whereas conflict and class struggle are discreetly suggested (the union leader asks a group of females workers if they would like to become a she rep; one of the sales women isn’t promoted to a managerial post because she’s black; the prejudice and hardship faced by the young gay men), there isn’t a real confrontation and overall happiness and harmony reign. This peace exists because despite of the difficulties, there’s a supportive community where they can all find comfort and shelter.
The 40-strong cast gives a mixture of amateur and more professional performances and make this a very entertaining, albeit a bit long, play to watch. There were quite a few slips (and even one smartphone dropped to the 1988 floor!) but the strength lies in the writing and the nicely threaded stories which make this a nostalgic picture of an era which no longer exists. In the meeting between Nigel and the American visitor we foresee the dooming future of Reseal 9, which would probably be relocation and mass layoffs as the result of yet another crisis in capitalism – after all, Marx was right.
Significant Other Inc. is part of The Significant Other Festival, an annual festival of new writing where each year ten writers and ten directors are challenged to create ten plays lasting ten minutes each. All, of course, in just ten days. It’s a beautiful and original exercise, now in its ninth edition, organised by The Pensive Federation, which works around the idea of “significant other”.
Author: Emma Bentley, Joshua Phillips, Anna Landi, Catrin Lowe, Chantelle Dusette, Olivia Coppin, Daniella Harry, Laura McGrady, Mark Daniels and Grace Chapman.
Director: Neil J Byden
Producer: The Pensive Federation
Box Office: 0207 401 9603
Booking Link: https://www.thevaults.london/significant-other-festival-2018
Booking Until: 21st April 2018