Directed by Elinor Randle
Unity Theatre, Liverpool
5th – 8th October 2016
Reviewed by Ashley McGovern
Happy Hour, the 1987 hit song by The Housemartins, is all about going for an after-work drink with an insufferable boss. The latest production by Liverpool physical comedy specialists Tmesis has clearly picked up on this depressing grindstone culture, but here there isn’t even an end-of-the-day knees-up.
All four employees of the Happiness Corporation, sister department of the National Happiness Commission, are locked in the office, forced to conjure up five smiley faces by the end of the day or else.
Level 3 is watched over by super-keen sycophant boss Adam, yet not even his constant hovering and hilariously irritating questions can keep his three underlings, Dave, Jen and ‘New Girl’, fully concentrated.
Throughout the fast-paced 60 minute whirlwind of a play they can’t stop day dreaming: Dave lusts after the foreign, babbling New Girl, Jen wants to be a worshipped corporate goddess, and even Adam has his moment, when he suddenly swaps his do-gooder southern accent for the preachy Americanisms of Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street.
For a few minutes you would think this was a scene from Scorsese’s extravaganza – the mention of the Somerset files and the Wiltshire account brings us back to comic reality. Needless to say with all their arguing, panicking and day dreams very little work gets done.
Tmesis have done a brilliant job of creating a skewed office comedy that has a good measure of slapstick. Rather than the mind-numbing humdrum of Ricky Gervais’ more famous office (though Adam Davies who plays Adam is extremely good at Brentian alienation), Level 3 is physical, hectic, full of dancing and fist fights.
The lighting was very effective, cutting from shiny office to the dimmer dreamy interludes, and Chris Fittock’s script contained many amusing set-pieces.
I’m not sure whether there was a final irony waiting for the audience as we left the theatre. We were handed a feedback form, which was, I must say, slightly annoying for a theatre show. Then again, perhaps the Happiness Corporation was working late and needed more emotional data.