The Worker’s Theatre Company claim that their show B.O.G.O.F is “the culmination of a nationwide writing competition” that hunted performance material in the shape of “new, funny one act plays.” Sadly, this is a rather misleading pitch. To have this material held up as a winning example of British playwriting is to do the movement a great disservice.
For the uninitiated, B.O.G.O.F is a somewhat inelegant acronym for ‘buy one get one free.’ The Workers Theatre have applied this concept to a night at the theatre, performing two plays in one evening.
‘Well Groomed’ is the depressing tale of an unhappy groom who sleeps with two bridesmaids and the mother of the bride while his oblivious new wife dances to New York, New York at the reception. ‘Granny Must Die’ tells of a grandmother’s pact with Satan in which he promises her a new lease of life (thrusting his pelvis and raising his eyebrows is his only explanation of what this entails). Granny takes the deal and becomes rude and foul mouthed (think Catherine Tate’s gran sketch, but stretched out over an hour), causing her family to resort to the only possible solution: physical violence and brutal murder.
The writing, by Ian Townsend on both counts, is laden with two-dimensional caricatures, distasteful jokes and smutty innuendos. The majority of characters are stereotypes, some bordering on offensive. Stupid northerners, a sex-obsessed Benny Hill type character and a ridiculously camp homosexual undertaker (who “can’t complain, had plenty of stiffs”) are all here, lining up like a roll call of 1970s working man’s club acts.
The performances are enthusiastic with some good moments of physical comedy. The company are clearly energetic and dedicated, but it is a real shame to see them performing something so dated and without a hint of irony. It is uncomfortable and baffling to watch young performers cavort to the strains Black Lace’s "Gang Bang", then reel off gags about Gary Glitter, Michael Barrymore and Heather Mills.
Overall, B.O.G.O.F is a show lacking in taste and subtlety that credits its audience with little or no intelligence. The Worker’s Theatre Company have real potential as performers, but perhaps should increase their ambition to produce work that is great all-round.
- Sara Cocker