THEATRE / The Office Party - Nottingham Playhouse

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The Independent Culture
The England in most of John Godber's writing works hard and plays hard. Labour and leisure clearly fascinate him. He seems especially interested in situations where the two activities are intertwined - clubland in Bouncers and sport in the Up 'n' Under plays. This suggests a sense in which modern leisure is work, a driven activity fraught in similar ways.

This new play, produced here in association with Godber's company, Hull Truck, chooses a setting which winds the association between work and play even tighter. From the beginning it's clear that partying at the Yorkshire marketing firm of Chapman and Howard is hard work, for the four men have all arrived early, and are lamenting the tedious embarrassment of their miscalculation. The party then proceeds by stages, each one cutting into, and corresponding to the increasing action within the office over the preceding year. The catalyst is the arrival of a new female account handler, Jo (Rebecca Clay), and the not unpredictable effect she has on the sexual politics, and impolitics, of the office.

However, his critique of the not-so-hidden persuaders is sporadic. The three characters who carry this part of the play are: Jo, a feisty Northern lass turning her traditional assertiveness into executive power-play; her boss, Gavin (Gareth Tudor Price); and one of the copywriters, Andy (Mark Addy). The trial of strength between her and the predictably predatory Gavin is no contest, but the threads of the relationship between her and mid-life-crisis Andy, though again a tryst of cliches, promises more complexity. They share perceptions and, to some extent, principles which enable the play to explore the inextricability of advertising and sexuality.

Godber's slice-of-life realism is laced with stylisation of design and presentation, but fails to conceal a disappointingly thin base.

To 26 Sept (box office: 0602 419419)

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