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Friday, June 8

Secs Lies and Hazard Tape - A Review

Show seen 7th June 2007, Etcetera Theatre, London

Billed as a "Musical Farce", Girl Friday Productions' self-written piece is about office workers in a company called "Total Rubbish". The cast comprises one male actor, playing the sexually prolific office hunk and two women, each playing two characters. Ostensibly, the show seems to be about relationships - the power relationships between management and staff and the sexual relationships that might underpin the office environment.

There are some laughs in the script, and some of the characterisation is very vivid and enjoyable. The staging of the piece is neat, with little attention wasted on set changes, contributing to a very fluid piece. The regular costume changes for the women as they swap roles seem to be covered quite well with on stage or recorded action, though there is always a sense that the woman who is leaving the room in one role is bound to return as her alter-ego any minute. Some of the musical performances are reasonably competent, with occasional flashes of inspiration, like the abuse of office equipment as song and dance props. With choreography involving office chairs, it's not hard to see how the producers have embraced the spirit of setting a musical in an office.

Yet with all of these ideas festooning their production, there's something distinctly missing from the piece. Musically, it seems bereft of strong melody, lacking in inspiration lyrically, and in need of tightening, if not totally rewriting. There are some recurring musical themes, but it's only by deduction that you might notice, so unmemorable are the tunes. A musical doesn't just need good songs, it also needs the audience to feel that each song is relevant. With occasional moments along the lines of "why does this need a song?", which are born out of a quasi-tourettes-syndrome approach to emotion in the overal writing, and some poor choices of musical style to underpin these songs, this piece doesn't gain through being a musical farce.

Then there is the question of how much of a farce we're observing. The farce seems to be almost entirely incidental and the plot is not big enough to sustain the show. Someone is hiding something, but the magnitude of that thing is not impressive enough for the other characters to play off it. This is evident when occasional reveals between the characters cause the audience to chuckle, rather than laugh with glee.

With various unresolved subplots, a confused timeline, a collection of office-working cliches that make you wonder if the writers have ever even worked in an office, and a denouement which leaves the audience nonplussed, this show has very little true grit. The capabilities of the actors, switching characters and playing them distinctly, is without question, but the fact that they have had to write the show around a half-sized cast, has reduced the ability to play their characters off against each other, and bring what little they have of a plot to a climax.

A musical should start with a strong opening number and come to a rousing finale. This show limps along for an hour and then stops. My guess is that it will improve some with repeated performance in Edinburgh, but I can't see it garnering much in the way of audience or critical acclaim. I suspect that their fictional company name "Total Rubbish" will come back to haunt them.


Blogger Girl Friday said...

Thank you for your comments. Its really helpful for us as new writers. If you have any further useful advice, please email us at

Many thanks
Roslyn Ure
Girl Friday Productions

11:54 AM  

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