The Cock Tavern Theatre is getting good at spotting hits. As the transfer of its
hugely popular chamber La Bohème
extends at Soho Theatre, RJ Purdey’s Subs
returns to Kilburn for another month of word and workplace humour.
Set on the subs desk of Gentlemen Prefer…
magazine, Purdey’s play is a night at the office for this reviewer, who’s usually
subbing on a national news website right about now. Minutes in and I’m chuckling at the familiar mix of pedantry and pessimism clouding those who "get paid for
their spelling and syntax".
not the only one. Eats, Shoots and Leaves has made subs of us all and the office
politics on display – professional, sexual or otherwise – have the whole audience
laughing from the off. This is a tale of two men: wiry, whisky-fuelled
chief sub Derek (Steve Hay) and his 'dour from the Gower’ Welsh deputy Finch (Michael
Cusick). Drop a quietly ambitious junior and a confident female freelancer onto the page and the stage is set for a showdown.
Cusick are worthy sparring partners but then they do get the best lines. Purdey sadly paints his secondary characters so thin that Max Krupski and Naomi
Waring are wasted on them. Later plot
developments, too, are more clichéd than credible.
That said, it's still an entertaining 90 minutes. Jemima Carter-Lewis does a good job with
the set, aided by effective lighting and sound by Steve Lowe and Nick Jones. Only
the abundance of female flesh on the mocked-up Gentlemen Prefer… covers lets the side down. Hardly the ‘class and
sophistication’ for which the magazine is meant to be known.