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Have a Very Nice Day (Greater Manchester Fringe Festival)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Andrew (Stuart Crowther) and Emily (Helen Batchelor) each have their own way of coping with the monotony of working in a telesales office. New recruit Taylor (Aaron Cobham) suspects that the clipped diction and obsessive control methods of the office manager Abigail (Maia Terra) might conceal sinister motives.

Have a Very Nice Day features decent and contrasting performances. Cobham's strong naturalistic interpretation of Aaron balances against the more stylised approach of Crowther and Batchelor, who offer desperate denial and borderline hypochondria. But the cast seem to be performing in a vacuum.

The set, by Natasha Demetriou, is a convincing office environment with trite mottos and realistic nametags clearly visible. But writer/director Barry Evans seems uncertain about the type of atmosphere he wants to create. Although there are elements with a darkly humorous edge -- staff meetings developing into therapy sessions -- the play is uneven. Evans does not manage to trick the audience into imagining they are watching a dark comedy before revealing the play is a horror story in the style of Ira Levin. Hints on how the plot will develop are dropped predictably manner, and there is no sense of gathering menace, only plodding pace.

No effort is made to link the developments in the play to a wider social context. The relationship between workers and management is not examined in any depth. There is no sense of how it feels to work in a job that is unrewarding both financially and in terms of job satisfaction.

Have a Very Nice Day is not a bad play but is not as well-developed as you'd hope, and the result is undeniably disappointing.

- by Dave Cunningham


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