John Godber’s Christmas Office Party transports the audience back to the heady days of Christmas 1998. England are getting hammered in the Ashes and the hope that "things can only get better" under New Labour conflicts with the threat of cut-backs and redundancies in offices just like advertising company, Chapman and Howard where the play is set. A familiar tale. Only the cricket teams’ fortunes have thankfully changed twelve years on.
At Chapman and Howard everything depends on getting the Pearson contract, but first; the annual Christmas bash...
The opening scene is a modern office in Leeds, the dreariness and monotony of a Monday morning is captured expertly through Godber’s keen eye for detail and dialogue. The atmosphere changes when office manager, Gavin(William Ilkley), announces that a high flying sales executive from London is due to arrive, at great expense, to help clinch the deal that everyone's future pay packet depends on. Things have to change, cuts have to be made, "only one bottle of red and fifty straws at this year’s Christmas party".
The high flying executive appears in female form as Jo (Beatrice Curnew) and straight away the male members of the office take a keen interest. Frustrated but very married, Andy (Leigh Symonds) is smitten, as too is grumpy divorcee Bob (Jim Kitson).Young, single, graphic designer, Lee (James Baxter) watches the proceedings and expertly winds up Bob who turns up dressed as Dracula thanks to a mischievous memo.
Scatty receptionist, Pippa (Pippa Fulton) and jaded Patty (Jackie Lye) who has her eye on her boss, and later anybody with a pulse, add further to the office chemistry as flirty Jo does nearly all she can to clinch the contract and takes a shine to Andy. All bubbling up nicely for later...
The drunken party antics are instantly recognisable and many of the full house shift uncomfortably in their seats, yes, we've all been there. The morning after reveals the truth in more ways than one, nothing is what it seems, true of 1998 and of New Labour.
Every character is typical of someone we all know, very funny in parts, and very true to life in others as one would expect of Godber. Seriously funny Jim Kitson steals the show, and the performances of Pippa Fulton and Leigh Symonds are also exceptionally good.A must-see night out for your own office Christmas bash.