This new comedy by Michael Ross is as bright and sparkling as anything on the market. The subject – target, rather – is the big business of supermarkets, the play as thought provoking as it is funny.
A mega store built on former farmland is unwitting host to the UK boss of ‘Frisca’ supermarkets, with Tony masquerading as a shelf stacker, having been put “back in the trenches” by the chain’s American owner. The Toffy Brit meets his match in store manager Vicky, and the laughs come quicker than sales at Christmas time.
Vicky is a gem of a role for the brilliant Katherine Kotz. The Cruella de Vil of Costcutters, the Lady Macbeth of Morrisons, Kotz lands every line perfectly. Director Roxy Cook does well to lavish time here. It’s possible other scenes could have been slowed down, but the comedy skills of all are impressive. With a plot twist that reveals how carefully constructed Kotz’s character is, this is one of the finest performances, and roles, I’ve seen in a long time.
Superbly supported by Charles Armstrong as the disarmingly affable Tony, there are further fine performances from Ben Mann and Jonny Weldon as two youngsters struggling to find their place in the (supermarket) world. Dreams are dashed and characters corrupted among the dairy aisles. Completing the cast are the excellent David Bauckham, as the big boss jetting in from the States at the first suspicion of Union activity, and Rachel Marwood, who’s in charge of Tony’s induction both when watching a corporate video and then in the pub – a scene that balances tension and laughs to great effect.
The mix of everyday lives and crap jobs, superbly observed, is deftly combined with big themes of corporate and personal responsibility. Ross’s social conscience is razor sharp, the delivery of facts, figures and argument, impeccable and inventive. But it’s Ross’s skill as a satirist, the ability to deal so well with exaggeration, that should make the show a hit: rules and situations seem ridiculous until you realise they already exist or are close to happening.
The comedy here is bold, adventurous and downright clever. As Orwellian doublethink is applied to the corporate world, the results are seriously funny.
Until 9 July 2016
Photos by David Monteith-Hodge