Pros: Mark Kavanagh’s original and heavily symbolic script.
Cons: The actors’ performances feel artificial and over-rehearsed.
I have to confess to the English reader that before seeing this play I didn’t know what ‘ratchet’ meant. Luckily for this foreigner, apart from the heaven sent WordReference there’s another useful (albeit often improper) website called Urban Dictionary. After dismissing “a galactic space lombax that has saved over 50 galaxies along with a robot named Clank” as an improbable definition for this show (what kind of play would that have been?), I went running towards an English dictionary. Suffice to say this play is about economic pressure, wages, and work.
The play begins with a heated argument. Under the spotlight are Jarrett (Martin South) and Sharkey (Jack Hyland) talking about what we assume is some kind of mysterious job they are going to take part in. The secretiveness of it all, as well as their Goodfellas style appearance, leads us to think that this will probably be a shifty business.
Jarrett, a veteran of the (unknown) trade, keeps telling young Sharkey that the “job will be revealed in due course”. However, to the latter’s irritation things become muddier as the conversation develops. The topic switches to Georgie Cohan (Wesley Magee), the man behind the job, whom Jarrett describes as “an unreliable c***”. At this point a third man whom the others call Brick (Andrew Phillips) enters the stage but doesn’t even say hello: instead he sits in a corner reading a copy of Beano. Jarrett thinks him deaf-mute but in possession of skills necessary to “the job”. Then a delivery guy named Bixby (Elliott Tiney) delivers some pizza ordered by Georgie Cohan – he also wants to take part in “the job”. Soon there’s a massive argument about who should be in the job and who shouldn’t until Georgie enters the stage…
The absurdist appearance of Ratchet might leave more than one spectator baffled. What was the whole point of that long and confusing conversation between the characters? Was there ever a job? Did Georgie con the others? There are enough questions to keep the conversation going in the pub downstairs after the curtain drops. It seemed to me though that there’s some interesting symbolism hidden behind the protagonists’ charade. We could read this play as a metaphor of work relations, the competitive nature of capitalism and the conquer and rule philosophy of the ruling classes. I don’t want to get too commie about it but Georgie telling Jarrett “I can’t do a job without you” and the latter replying “and I can’t have a job with you” is in my opinion too meaningful to disregard. Bosses need us but can we really work with them?
The strength of this play relies undoubtedly on Mark Kavanagh’s original writing and his ingenious way of depicting the workplace microcosm as well as the bigger picture of industrial relations. The cast offer engaging performances but overall feel too calculated and over-rehearsed, too artificial. Perhaps the exception is Martin South as Jarrett, standing out as a convincing veteran of the mysterious trade.
Jobs are a very ratchet business…
Author: Mark Kavanagh
Director: Mark Kavanagh
Producer: Pass the Buck
Booking Until: 26 May 2018
Box Office: 020 8050 3025
Booking Link: https://www.breadandrosestheatre.co.uk/ratchet.html