Bush Theatre, London, until January 21
It’s always intriguing how other people live their lives. Jack Rosenthal got that when he wrote The Knowledge, which managed to turn the lives of London cabbies into unforgettable drama. David Mamet did the same for estate agents with Glengarry Glen Ross. Now Margaret Perry is having a go with telesales women working from home in Paradise Now!
I don’t know if they necessarily have to be women in this line of work, but
they all happen to be in this odd, uneven but intermittently amusing play.
Paradise markets essential oils – what’s essential about them is anyone’s guess – and Shazia Nicholls makes a very good job of the slightly demented regional rep who recruits her motley team and drives them to hit their sales targets.
These include Gabriel (Michele Moran), a spirited Irish woman who lives with her world-weary sister Baby (Carmel Winters). There’s also Carla (Ayoola Smart), who sees it as something to do until she realises her forlorn dream of making it big in television, and then there’s her feisty girlfriend, Anthie (Annabel Baldwin). Maybe my favourite character is the wonderfully neurotic Laurie (Rakhee Thakrar) who sees team-building exercises as a chance to be abusive to other teams.
The play is at its best and funniest when it ridicules corporate life with all of its buzzwords and cultishness. There isn’t a member of the cast who isn’t firing on all cylinders but, at two-and-a-half-hours, it feels much too long. I get the impression the director, Jaz Woodcock-Stewart, indulged Perry too much. Some judicious cutting could have made this play really special. Regular readers will know I’ve a bit of a crush on the Bush, but I am afraid this one isn’t quite up to their normal standards. It’s the first time for ages I’ve found myself looking at my watch in this venue.