Pros: Superb physical theatre, synchronised to perfection
Three women and a man, clad in ill-fitting business suits, sit in a row at desks staring blankly at the audience. As the lights go down they continue to gaze straight ahead, but their expressions gradually change, first to disgust, then to horror; it’s several minutes before one of them breaks the silence.
“Right,” says their presumed boss, played by Jen Wakely, power dressed with scraped-back hair and vast shoulders. “Well,” agrees Megan Smyth, wide-eyed and youthful, in a suit many times too big for her. “So,” continues Cordelia Stevenson, hair piled up on top of her head, thick-framed glasses making her appear the epitome of the intransigent office worker. “Okay,” agrees Adam Deane, squeezed into a short jacket that can barely contain him. Apart from the boss, this single word is all they each say for the duration of the show.
And for several minutes, that’s all we hear – round and round, continuing the Right- Well – So – Okay mantra in a subtle parody of business practice. After a sudden, frenzied display of choreographed action in which desks are shuffled and reshuffled around the stage, a folder is produced from a briefcase and the boss reads the latest stock market report, to the applause or sneers of the remaining cast.
Most of what follows consists of a hilarious and perfectly timed display of synchronised office work: opening and closing briefcases to the music of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, racing from seat to seat and posing in a variety of outlandish positions, folding business reports into paper darts and throwing them into the audience to the sound of Offenbach’s Can Can.
Every so often they’re interrupted by the arrival of a fifth cast member, who silently carries in what appears to be a corpse in a body bag, and folds it into a filing cabinet – and when the filing cabinet is full, he piles up the bodies in the corner. From time to time, one of the four light bulbs over a desk will go out and the worker at that desk will revert into horror mode, until the others snap them out of it.
This is a perfectly synchronised show, mimed by the largely non-speaking cast in an intricate and persuasive parody of office routine. Through action and expression the audience is left weeping with laughter – right up to the moment of the startling, horrifying ending, which forces them to confront the reality of their business practice.
Devised by the company, this outstanding piece of performance theatre deserves a much wider audience.
Director: Josie Underwood
Producer: Silent Faces
Box Office: 020 7419 4841
Booking Link: https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/follow-suit/
Booking until: This show has now completed its run.