Can I Have a Job Please? | Theatre Review

10 Feet Tall, Cardiff

29/08/10

★★★★☆

Although from the title it seems this piece is just about desperate interviewees and botched application forms, ‘Can I Have a Job Please?’ sculpts an amusingly ghostly world where academic achievement melts into parental approval, acknowledgment from one’s seniors and recognition from the other sex. Simultaneously funny and poignant, the play explores different understandings and experiences of rejection through rapidly changing scenarios, weaving varied aspects into the same web of human experience.

In this all-encompassing and versatile display, we witness a multitude of characters including a father lamenting his daughter’s fall from maximum potential to minimum wage, a busy mother hurling abuse at the call centre worker in a throwaway tone of brisk chit-chat and a nervous girl formally applying for the position of ‘Girl That I’m Casually Dating’, whose discussion of her ‘borderline first’ at becoming girlfriend material firmly cements the different elements of rejection into the same surreal situation.

With just two chairs and stylistically scattered litter in black, white and red, there was a visual simplicity which demanded a high standard of inventiveness from the company. This mark was exceeded by the small cast as they charged up the props they had with intense meaning. The packets of junk food and screwed up CVs which covered the venue paved the way for a deeply metaphorical discussion of identity; indeed, as the actors crawled amongst the rubbish, their characters’ identities merging with the bland textual summaries on the floor, we had a brilliantly symbolic exploration of whether an identity should ever be contained on the regulation two pages of a curriculum vitae, in a state where it can be discarded alongside last week’s snack wrappers.

With such alignment in mind, it is undeniably cathartic to see these two actors rise from the masses of paper, wreathing out of the junk and onto stage where they proceed to pull out elements from generic applications and render them unique and human. As the play opens, their snappy, repeated lines expose the mechanical process of job applications and blossom into personable monologues which reveal the likable individuals behind the forms. Functioning as spiritual mediums for a whole host of the voiceless rejected, the two actors pour themselves into new roles in a nightmarish fragmented tale of rejection bringing a whole range of voices into the play.

Yet although the content was undeniably serious in nature and close to the bone for many hit by the recession, the work was surprisingly warming. Packed with pathos and teasing understatement, this was a witty piece which united us all in its dances into the surreal. ‘Can I have a Job Please?’ thoroughly taps into the mood of the moment through an emphatically inventive theatre, which is firmly of its time and completely true to life.

(originally published on remotegoat.co.uk)

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