A Working Title

Tue 16th – Sat 20th August 2016


Eloise Heath

at 11:11 on 18th Aug 2016



My expectations were low for ‘A Working Title’. I skimmed the synopsis on the way over, which mentions of Tinder and the declaration that ‘It’s about turning 25 and not having your shit together’. I stifled a yawn and a shudder, getting ready to see some middle-class drama grads whine about how life post-university is seemingly as traumatic as a nasty case of Hepatitis C. I was, incredibly, pleasantly surprised. This show is supremely likeable, the execution is tight and the result is a fun hour with no pretensions to edginess.

The story is told in lightly interwoven narrative strands, and by the end I feel pretty attached to the characters. Best of all is the ultimate assertion of twentysomething London life as something one chooses, never implying that a stressful internship and a sense of listlessness is comparable to actual poverty or hardship.

‘A Working Title’ is refreshingly non-edgy, saving it from becoming the whiny angst-fest I feared it could be. There are heavy musical theatre overtones, the most supremely mainstream of all the art forms. It’s quite sentimental and quite nostalgic, but all the more endearing for it. It reminds me strongly of 'Love Actually'. I don’t think Richard Curtis believes he’s produced the next 'Citizen Cane' just as, despite a brief snatch of Oasis ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, the writers here aren’t claiming to be John Osborne.

It’s really refreshing to see a show make genuine features of transitions. Scene changes are eased into with snatches of acapella song and dance, which are drilled to tight perfection.

There’s also an extended movement sequence, set to a modern fairytale, that is especially great. It is non-cloying and just the right length, and seeing the princess strain to look at the Handsome Prince’s unexpectedly hairy back is a treat. The visuals overall are good, boasting scant set but great spacing and accomplished physicality from the cast. These bits don’t feel like afterthoughts, adding polish.

I have one complaint. In one of the recurring narrative strands, a busker delivers an autobiographical monologue. But not just any old autobiographical monologue. Ash Goosey speaks in heroic couplets throughout. I appreciate that he speaks verse very well, and the idea that he’s a minstrel type figure - but it’s just annoying. This is my one large criticism of this production; it’s annoying to rhyme all the time (I appreciate the irony in that phrasing), and it’s very annoying to say things like "lest I break their pates" and "prithee" whilst wearing a 'Run DMC' T-Shirt.

I was so happy to be wrong about ‘A Working Title’. I laughed out loud frequently; the mention of ‘an almond milk coffee library in Shoreditch’ was especially well placed. It’s heartwarming and fun and well worth seeing.


Christopher Archibald

at 17:03 on 18th Aug 2016



‘A Working Title’ aims to address what one character calls "Generation Lost, Generation Lonely, Tired": those poor millennials, who we seem to hear so much about. The show claims to add something new to this, by concluding that if you "slow down" a bit, it’s not that bad. But why choose to spend an hour exploring an issue that, it later emerges, is not an issue at all?

The play’s advert claims ‘It's about turning 25 and not having your shit together. It's about people.’ Perhaps a play ‘about people’ is meant to be straight-talking and relevant, but it is uninteresting and unoriginal. The script shares the advert’s irritating habit of using "You" and "your" (meaning ‘one’). Perhaps this makes it relatable, except that these six ‘everyman’ characters are all Londoners with jobs and aspirations. In attempting to talk about everyone, this show ends up talking about no one - or at least a tiny proportion of the country’s population.

The form is as unoriginal as the topic, singing vaguely acoustic versions of ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and ‘Are You Ready for Love’, amazingly without the least hint of irony. One extended sequence uses the metaphor of a fairytale to describe an unhappy, young marriage. Admittedly the choreography of this is inventive and well executed, but it is wasted on informing the audience that life is not like a fairytale after all – who knew?!

Ash Goosey, playing the busker, is a talented singer, but unfortunately his all too frequent monologues are a perfect example of how wrong spoken word poetry can go. I had to stifle groans as he delivered faux-Shakespearean drivel, littered with choice phrases like "I prithee", "stay awhile" and my personal favourite, "lest they break their pates". Not only is this pretty irritating, but completely bizarre in a piece that is supposed to engage with the contemporary.

Despite this, the actors are energetically committed throughout, and ‘Working Title’ has its moments. Some brief, physical theatre representing the tube is striking and effective. A couple of scenes between two colleagues meeting awkwardly in a lift provide some brilliant observational comedy and are genuinely funny. These scenes are very brief, but suggest a successful direction in which this play could have gone, if the unoriginal playlist and dire ‘poetic’ interludes had been left in the rehearsal room.

‘A Working Title’ has some of the makings of an enjoyable show, and some people might think it charming. But I could not help thinking about the thousands of other shows I could be seeing that have new things to say in original ways. Instead, I spent an hour hearing platitudes, communicated through the medium of bad pop music and embarrassing, adolescent doggerel.


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