As the showís programme tells us, not all of World War Oneís conflict ended in 1916, and as things calmed down at home, the British Foreign Office turned its attention to the territorial tension between Turkey and Greece. It is against this political backdrop that writer Trevor Baxter sets Office Games, which eavesdrops the smaller-scale politics taking place between seven members of the Foreign Office.
Some misinformation in a cabinet briefing gets the imperious Charles Raven ([Richard OíCallaghan]) into trouble, and the blame is put on Rose (Charlie Brooks) from the typing pool. Keen to keep her job, Rose uses her most powerful weapon, her sexuality, to win Mr Raven over. But it seems that he should be keeping a closer eye on his subordinates, who not only spend far too much of their time in petty but damaging rivalry, but who also have designs on disrupting Mr Ravenís name and career.
Guy Retallakís production has echoes of his recent success at the New End Theatre, More Lies About Jerzy, if only for the juicy and multi-faceted story. And with a strong cast who blend comfortably into designer Christopher Richardsonís authentic post-war stage setting, Iím left only with the storytelling itself to blame for my indifferent response.
Office Games presents a colourful spectrum of character from the outset, and the unique nature of office relationships is well-observed, but despite plot twists and revelations, the characters themselves remain stagnant, so that our understanding of them is no greater by the end.
This is certainly not the fault of the performers who make the most of what they have been given. Adam Croasdell is particularly noteworthy as the intense and angry bully Dennis, as is his sad bible-preaching victim David, played by ex-Corrie star Adam Rickett. Fellow soap actress, Eastendersí Charlie Brooks, shows a natural stage presence as the paradoxically naÔve schemer Rose. But perhaps my favourite of all is Jonathan Newth as Mr Ravenís rival, the aristocratic Sir Horace Broughton, simply for a voice so exquisitely executed, so quintessentially upper-class English, his only scene closed the play with real class.
Office Games is a nice evening out, itís even worth hunting out the Pleasance theatre at its secluded North London location. But it isnít, nor does it pretend to be, life-changing.
- Peggy Nuttall