Present and Correct: Now Recruiting

Wed 6th – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Fergus Morgan

at 02:18 on 18th Aug 2014

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Considering the plethora of sketch shows to be found at the Fringe, it takes true originality for one to stand out. With Present and Correct: Now Recruiting, co-directors Simon Lewis and Sam Went have created a show that contains glimpses of such quality, aided by a set of commendable performances but let down by some inconsistent writing.

Refreshingly, this is a sketch show with a semblance of a plot. Set in the cut-throat corporate world of tax-dodging and off-shore accounts, every skit is somehow linked to the merciless Penderson Brothers Office Supplies company, headed by morally bankrupt CEO Jeremy Penderson (Lewis Dunn). Timid graduate employee Natalie (Lucy Walters), insufferably enthusiastic lift attendant ‘Captain’ Bond (Harry Morgan), Marxist protestor Whiskers the Cat (a puppet voiced by Walters again) and an irritatingly breezy careers administrator (Meg Rocky) all feature, as Penderson Bros. struggles with HMRC over some suspicious financial behaviour.

The undoubted stars of the show are Dunn and Walters. Dunn brings a delectable reptilian menace to the role of Penderson. His notable physicality and powerful voice (watch out for his exceptional evil laugh) allow expression of his natural comedic nous; his performance is genuinely memorable. Walters displays remarkable versatility, providing humour in both her roles. As nervous and naïve Natalie, her timorous personality is both appropriate and amusing. As the voice of Whiskers the Cat she combines adorability with sophisticated communist theory, somehow managing to command an enormous stage presence with a four inch high puppet.

Morgan also deserves a mention, not least for his unbounded enthusiasm and commendable vivacity. His thoroughly enjoyable portrayal of John, the creator of a sinister children’s TV program whose ulterior motives slowly become clear, is a definite highlight. In contrast, his ceaseless verbosity as lift attendant Captain Bond is, if at first moderately funny, inevitably tiresome due to its repetitiveness. Present and Correct: Now Recruiting is at its strongest when either Dunn or Watson are on stage, and it is here that the show feels most polished.

These laudably consistent performances are in sharp contrast with some regrettably inconsistent writing; there is a confrontation between a moronic employee and a frustrated journalist that is exasperatingly overworked. Some scenes are fantastically conceived; one featuring the incoherent discussion of a ‘blue-sky thinking’ group is downright hysterical, typifying the glimpses of hilarity that peppered the show.

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Flo Layer

at 02:54 on 18th Aug 2014

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Dead Duck Productions have brought an interesting and often amusing office-based sketch show to the fringe. The cast take the audience from department to department of the Penderson Brothers Office Supplies; a corrupt, evil business which is avoiding tax with a pantomime villain boss, sadistic careers interviewer and a victimised graduate employee.

Writers Will Eaton, Lewis Dunn and Tristan Griffin on the whole tackled the various topics of tax avoidance and graduate employment options with an equal measure of silliness and underlying dark and sinister tones. Occasionally it seemed as if the audience’s laughter was a little polite, yet there were certainly particular lines which shone with comedy brilliance.

The use of voice-overs, with such snippets such as ‘Have you been injured at work and it wasn’t your fault?’ followed by recorded unconstrained laughter, was one such shining moment. A high octane sketch which poked fun at the verging-on-ridiculous efforts of a creative team or blue sky thinkers, and the clever imitation of aeroplane hosts confined to operate the office lift were also performed with admirable enthusiasm provoking infectious laughter.

However, the appearance of Whiskers, the puppet cat with determinedly Socialist views, was a little too much odd silliness to bear in a show which could have relied just as well on its glimpses of ingenious writing. Why mix up Sooty and Sweep humour with an otherwise cleverly composed comedy? Lucy Walters performed the cat role with consistency, but it felt as if the show was trying to cater for an awkward crossbreed target audience of toddlers and disgruntled tax-paying adults.

On the whole the cast delivered a practiced performance although occasionally the acting was a little forced and nerve-wracked, leaving the odd scene feeling lost and lacklustre. However, a couple of the actors impressed with consistently convincing portrayals of their various roles including the brilliant villainy of Lewis Dunn as the boss Jeremy Penderson whose evil cackle was especially accomplished. Meg Rocky also delivered as she switched between sadistic and smarmy interviewing role to the soft and frothy declarations of a sugary school teacher.

Overall, the show was well-rehearsed, clearly thought out (despite the odd puppet appearance), and had the occasional moment of perfectly timed and admirably delivered theatrical comedy. However, slips in the writing as well as a slightly nervous cast rubbed the shine from the surface of what could have been a thoroughly successful show.

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