We mentioned last week that actor Adam Brown (aka Ori) is currently appearing in the new play Saxon Court, a production by Made by Brick at the Southwark Playhouse in London. Staffer greendragon went along to see the show in preview, and brings us this review:
Southwark Playhouse, just a few minutes’ walk from the Elephant and Castle tube station, is a fascinating place with a characterful, cosy lobby/bar, and two studio theatre performance spaces, known as ‘The Large’ and ‘The Little’. Emerging playwright Daniel Andersen’s Saxon Court is being presented in The Little. The production, directed by Melanie Spencer, makes skilful use of the intimate space, turning the black box into a workplace, with simply an area on the walls stage right and stage left painted grey to frame the stage. The show tells the tale of a typical London office, on the day of the Christmas party in 2011, at the height of the financial crisis. Things are not going well and someone is likely to get fired – but who will it be?
This is listed as a ’16+’ production, and deservedly so – the folks in this office are as raucous, vulgar and boozy as one might expect on party day! Joey and Nat are the older hands in the office, constantly teasing newcomer Noel; receptionist Tash has recently been off for some ‘surgery’ (and it’s fairly obvious from the moment she enters what her procedure might have been!); they all answer to boss Donna, who is harsh, driven and ruthless.
Adam Brown plays Mervyn (unfairly referred to throughout as ‘Ugly Mervyn’!), an employee from another office who is summoned to meet with Donna. Though Brown has the smallest role to play, his performance is one of the strongest. His Mervyn is funny, gauche, annoying (and, it turns out, as mean as everyone else!); and yet at the moment when he realizes he might be fired, we are given a glimpse of touching poignancy, before the comedy returns.
Actors John Pickard (Joey) and Debra Baker (Donna) also give strong performances. The play is very funny; the almost full house on the night I attended rang with loud and frequent laughter. Andersen clearly knows office worker ‘types’ – I’m pretty sure I’ve temped in this office, with the wine-swigging receptionist dressed up to the nines for the Christmas party. His characters are well-drawn, all hiding – and gradually revealing – insecurities, vulnerabilities and flaws.
My only criticism of the evening was that I was left somehow dissatisfied. We’d spent the past couple of hours watching these people be caustic and despicable; I would have liked to have seen some sense of a journey, of an imminent change or a lesson learned. Furthermore, the play looks at an office in crisis, but fails to give much insight into the wider city (and world) in financial crisis at that time. Instead, the script seems rather superficial; I felt that this office would continue much the same the next day, albeit minus an employee. But perhaps that is part of the point: life goes on, staff and crises come and go, but there will always be offices with snarky workers and drunken, regrettable Christmas parties.
Definitely not a family show – heed the 16+ guideline! But if you fancy a biting, funny antidote to Christmas schmaltz, then Saxon Court is well worth seeing. It runs at Southwark Playhouse until December 13th; click here for showtimes and tickets.