That Sinking Feeling

Fri 1st – Thu 14th August 2014

reviews

Lucy Diver

at 23:17 on 12th Aug 2014

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A merger, Mah-Jong and a guy called Monolith – this made up the madness that was That Sinking Feeling. Set aboard a cruise ship, a business-leisure trip went horribly wrong. It was an amusing farce, and although the plot careered from improbability to improbability, it was quite funny.

There were some stand-out moments of acting. I found the Polly Burn and Albert Ohlin as the two German translators hilarious. Their stiff inability to understand humour was a relief from the ridiculousness around them. Gus Yellowlees as Monolith was undeniably incredibly engaging – all eyes were on him when he was on stage, and that’s just the way Monolith liked it. It’s unclear if there was a hero, or any likeable or sympathetic character in the bunch, but this isn’t really worth worrying about when three trillion yuan and a wife have been gambled away.

The musical accompaniment were undeniably excellent, and helped oil the wheels of a show that might have otherwise gotten stuck in its numerous plot holes, or plot ruts. A ghost writer popped up for one scene for no apparent reason, and the gambling away of a wife was never resolved either. Nonsensical though it was, That Sinking Feeling and its cast knew this to be the case. The characters, actors and audience were enjoying themselves, floating along a current of craziness towards an amusing, although macabre ending. It is new writing, and it doesn’t really give a virgin pina colada what you think of its zigzagging route across a sea of troubles.

It was a fairly brilliant send up of modern working relations: liquid lunches, ‘apology graphs’ (where the x axis represents sorryness and the y axis represents time), and sending literally cardboard cut-outs to meetings. The cruise ship industry, divorce, doctors and almost everything else you might find on a ‘hellhole of luxury accomodation’ are ripe subjects for satire.

Student Theatre at Glasgow (STaG) are clearly talented actors, with great writing and a wonderful musical support. They’re not doing anything serious or groundbreakingly moving with That Sinking Feeling, but it’s funny, madcap, it’s – well, it’s very much buoyant.

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Oliver Collard

at 09:30 on 13th Aug 2014

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A retinue of hapless executives at a contraceptive company attempt a lucrative merger with a successful Chinese venture whilst on a luxury cruise liner. This improbable premise is patently engineered for comedy, yet could become a little contrived. However, in a show where plot quickly takes a back seat to let laughter gun the engines, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The corporate environment has the same ludicrous air as those from familiar sitcoms like the IT Crowd. Indeed, the self-styled Monolith who inexplicably heads up the company is excellently played by Gus Yellowlees. He is every bit the Douglas Reynholm of the piece; a megalomaniac striding around the stage shouting whimsical instructions at his marginally less incompetent underlings: the obsequious and bumbling Pritchard (Tom Rouvray), the deferential yet occasionally sassy Queenie (James Johnson), and the world-weary Hockney (Cameron MacAskill).

Psychological depth is certainly not the order of the hour, but this is partly what makes the play shamelessly enjoyable. Some of the humour resides in the audience’s sense of schaudenfreude at these stereotypical and therefore, fairly disposable characters farcically navigating towards their own doom whilst trapped within their own fecklessly determined personalities.

At one point, Queenie, having been blinded by nerve gas, hilariously dithers while tied to his chair, his uncaring boss leaving him high and dry, before he finally manages to hop off. This pairing is very successful: a lot of humour is wrung out of the way Queenie is unceremoniously dumped on by his boss in spite of evidently being a lot more competent.

Still, the occasional strained joke does threaten to leave the play adrift. At one point, Queenie and Monolith enter a room where the furniture has been turned upside down, exclaiming that ‘the tables have turned’ and now ‘the chips really are down’, gesturing to the floor which is mysteriously scattered with the frozen variety of fried potato during the scene change. The temptation to groan is strong but in the absurd microcosm of the cruise ship, the delivery of the main characters seems to carry a lot of jokes through. Laughter is the stronger disease as it spreads through the audience.

The play does flounder during an abrupt, if inevitable ending. After the ship hits an iceberg there is an awkwardly short scene where full comic advantage is never really taken of the company’s untimely deaths.

Perhaps the constraints of time are an issue here and of course, the cast can only do so much for the imperfections in the writing. Ultimately, this lot do what they can admirably, clearly having worked hard together to bring it up to scratch. The only sinking feeling is the one evident on stage, which everyone’s chuckling at. Along with the rest of the audience, I’m buoyed up by the slapstick, visual gags and general silliness.

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