Freelance writer Vince Chadwick writes…
These two plays seek to answer the fundamental question longingly posed by a mailroom worker to his colleague in Brighter Whiter, ‘why aren’t we where we should be?’ From such a grim premise however, writer Anthony Noack manages to wring some great lines as a talented cast of dreamers poke fun at the absurdity of our modern working lives.
The Gift depicts a call centre up-ended by one newcomer’s ability to sell anything, provided it is for someone else. The spoof on consumer culture is glaring as the hilarious floor manager struts around repeating slogans that seem just nauseating enough to be real – ‘Outgoing people make incoming sales!’ Meanwhile a cash-strapped aspiring thespian (is there any other kind?), a brilliantly conflicted Catholic geneticist, and a debt-laden Brighton babe all abandon proletarian solidarity in their efforts to exploit ‘The Gift’.
That Noack is able to introduce so many characters in half-an-hour is testament to the quality of the writing on offer here, while Elliot Cyngler’s performance as a stutterer rates a special mention for stepping so far over the line of credulity that he re-enters the realm of comedy without vindictiveness. Some jokes wear out their welcome, but by and large The Gift is an excellently crafted short-form piece, not without a message. Leave it to the geneticist to say, ‘our uniqueness is entirely predictable’.
The action then segues to the two man show Brighter Whiter, the title of which describes the attempt to rebrand a company – from the mailroom! Whereas The Gift seemed willing to acknowledge the natural madness of its surrounds however, here the action flits in and out with constant reference back to a script issuing stage directions. The gambit works to set the scene initially but its repetition to begin each act interrupts the momentum which actors James Deeth and Soren Jensen work hard to achieve.
The humour is darker as letters begin to pile up, slowly drowning the mailroom’s occupants. The occasional non sequitur (‘If only I could sing!’) lightens the mood, though tellingly the best lines often arrive via asides to the audience rather than within the narrative itself.
Overall this is a fantastic hour’s entertainment easily worth the price of entry. The engaging performances and witty, thoughtful scripts trump the cardboard box scenery while the slight vibration of the 86 tram rolling down Gertrude Street next door merely serves to underline that this is the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Thank god its here.