Lion and Unicorn Theatre
Many years ago when I temped, I found myself in a job where I just didn’t know what I was there to do. It was literally two weeks of turning up each day, trying to get proper instructions from a boss who was never there, waiting for things to drop into my inbox to fill five more minutes, and basically watching the clock until 5pm came around again. For two weeks no one seemed to notice I had no work. And at the end of each week I was paid without question.
So I felt some solidarity with David (Aaron May), a man employed for “productivity monitoring” and yet never actually doing anything productive himself. As he discovers, he is simply there to meet government quotas. Believe it or not, trying to do nothing all day rather than working is quite exhausting and mentally draining: as David himself puts it “I’d rather die of passion than boredom”.
It’s a more than promising premise from Dumb Found Theatre, and from the off they offer a high energy, absurd piece, full of genuinely hilarious moments. The tone is set instantly as David appears, minus his trousers, whilst Jacob Aldcroft and Joe Topping offer a narration about what has just happened. Suddenly they break into a dance routine that is seriously worth the admission price alone. From here it is a whirlwind journey with David through his short working life, told through a collection of equally as amusing little moments, with Aldcroft and Topping offering up a cast of supporting characters.
There really are some fantastic ideas at play here. Lots and lots of ideas. We meet a pair of office goldfish commenting on David’s lack of output, one so offended by David he tries to take drastic action to confront him. There is Eddie King, a work colleague so cool he has his own signature music. Then there is the Van Gogh painting that David converses with for advice and support. Add to this the girlfriend, the company bosses, the parents – there really is a damn lot squeezed in.
And therein lies the problem: there are simply too many different ideas at play. Across its 50 minutes runtime we are bombarded with funny scenes, yet – Van Gogh painting aside – none are allowed to develop fully. It feels as if the three strong team had all come to the table with different suggestions and rather than pick a couple to build upon decided to include them all. It’s more a series of sketches than a fully formed show. I wanted time for the story to grow and develop, for loose ends to be tied up, such as how that start tied in with the ending. And as a raving socialist I wanted what seemed the play’s purpose (of taking a swipe at capitalism) to actually be heard properly.
Last Wednesday’s Work Shirt is unquestionably funny, but it needs work to turn those comic moments into a fully formed story, so come the end we leave not just with jaws aching from laughing so much, but with thoughts of the show as a whole. Even so, as it stands now, it still does a brilliant job of demonstrating the skill and craftsmanship of the team at Dumb Found Theatre, and that makes it a very worthwhile thing.
Written, directed and produced by: Dumb Found Theatre
Last Wednesday’s Work Shirt plays as part of Camden Fringe at Lion and Unicorn Theatre until 6 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.