Thursday 8 June 2017

Working - Review

Southwark Playhouse, London


From the book by Studs Terkel
Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso
With additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg
Songs by Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers &
Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor

Liam Tanme, Siubhan Harrison, Gillian Bevan,
Peter Polycarpou, Krysten Cummings & Dean Chisnall

It is remarkable how the mundane, simple and modest elements of hard graft, so often taken for granted, become the catalyst for the way you think and live your life, despite your best efforts to be defined by your dreams. Working, a musical directed by Luke Sheppard at the Southwark Playhouse, capitalises on that universal revelation with an incredible cast performing heartfelt, heartwarming and heart-wrenching stories of real people.

Without a narrative of sorts, the revolution that is Stud Terkel’s 1974 book (now on my Amazon wishlist) is celebrated as we’re invited into the lives of everyone from a hotel maid to a press agent, from firefighter to teacher. The seasoned cast relish the array of accents and sass, with no character left behind and no performance lacking and with their younger counterparts embracing their first post training roles with enough energy and glee to keep the hope alive even in the darkest moments. Under Isaac McCullough's baton, the tunes switch from cabaret to rock ballad to country, attributing to the multitude of musicians and writers credited which only adds to this celebration of the spice and variety of life.

Kicking off with an overture addressing the possibilities and downsides of worklife (“There are okay bosses or Satan bosses”) we are then thrown into the unknowingly deep thoughts of a fast food server and delivery guy (the mostly gleefully sweet Liam Tamne), the musings of a “Brother Trucker” (the very much not 19, Dean Chisnall), cue a rock ballad, and the pride of a steel worker (the endearing Peter Polycarpou) and that’s just a few from the guys. The range in the cast is incredible and drives the performance as the perky Indian customer service advisor warps into a pacifist with a screw loose. The ladies include Gillian Bevan perfectly presenting the pride of a lifelong waitress with a cabaret-esque number, Krysten Cummings bringing Whitney back as determined hotel maid and Siubhan Harrison bringing a tear to the eye as she harmonises the woes of factory labourer. It’s difficult to pinpoint a highlight, as it’s difficult to determine a more interesting story when they’re all told with the same pizazz.

In a world where it’s becoming more and more easy to forget the incredibly real and entirely fascinating lives of those who serve you coffee and build your homes, this musical is a welcome revival (and London premiere) and an eye-opening night. Oh, and so much fun.

Runs until 8th July
Reviewed by Heather Deacon
Photo credit: Robert Workman

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