Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Language, Offence & the Dystopian Workplace

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Theatr Clwyd & Paines Plough- Sticks and Stones , Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh , August-10-18
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Theatr Clwyd & Paines Plough- Sticks and Stones This is a first. Ninety minutes after walking out of Paines Plough's canary-yellow, geodesic-framed venue I am walking in again. Theatr Clwyd and Paines Plough are repeating their successful formula of 2017. A trio of actors perform in a troika of new plays- although this year the producers do not have the triumvirate of the Orange Tree to offer a prestige London venue for the tour.

Ian Dury's “Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3” pumps out across the circular interior. There are reasons to be cheerful. The first is the complete transformation of the actors. Simon Longman's “Island Town” has been about those on the margin. By contrast, Vinay Patel’s “Sticks and Stones” is about the winners of 2018. We are in the territory, lethal in its own way, that Mike Bartlett marked out in “Contractions.” Jack Wilkinson is in blue tie, grey trousers and black lace-up shoes. Katherine Pearce and Charlotte O'Leary are in the corporate smarts of tailored trousers, black skirt, purple blouse.

Vinay Patel's subject is the just-as-taut inner world of employment. There are clients to be pleased, deals to be secured. But the territory within is thick with traps in this rumbustiously engaging satire on modern mores. Katherine Pearce's character has made a joke in a meeting. The word itself is never identified but it leads her into a sea of troubles.

Patel's script keeps a distance in its sympathies. “Oleanna” it is not. But many an uncomfortable truth of today is skewered. Apologies are de rigeur but they are issued from those without moral responsibility for the causes that have impelled them. Derrida, perhaps surprisingly, had good things to say on the sincerity of apology. Intersectionality makes its probable debut in a script. Friendship in work is double-bladed. “You're willing to support me”, says Jack Wilkinson, “as long as I don't surpass you.” But there is another truth: “being nice is not the same as being good.”

“Sticks and Stones” does not quite sustain its length. It needs a clearer structural marker or two. It is buoyed up in Stef O’Driscoll’s direction with a hyper-active soundtrack. A word or a phrase triggers a particular action, the wave of an arm or kick of a leg, to a syncopated bang or click. The actors' timing and precision are impressive but a script with a greater impetus and harshness would have made it better.

These are small things in a bold production. There remains an undiminished pleasure in the brio of the action, the extroversion of the playing, the tautness of the trio. Charlotte O'Leary does insincerity gloriously. Katherine Pearce can shift the whole tenor of an encounter with just a narrowing of the eyes.

As for the corporate miscreant she does not end in destitution. A new career beckons- that of running Sensitivity Training Seminars.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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