Saxon Court, by Daniel Andersen, is a glorious compilation of cheesy Christmas party tunes, glitz and tinsel, golden leggings, prolific nicknaming (Merv, Don), a boob job and financial crisis. It’s the last ingredient that hangs over the play like a bad omen, or the bad smell from the toilet that kick starts the play (the play world toilet that is, not the playhouse’s).
Underlying every adult joke, every cutting quip about ‘Ugly Marvyn’ and the banter of office politics, is the threat of dismissal from Donna Saxon @DonnaSaxonCEO (Debrah Baker). In addition to the self-professed ‘alpha female’, there are strong female roles in this play. Everything tends towards chaos as Donna handles the increasing pressures of insecurity facing her Recruitment Business during the height of recession. Set in December 2011, the play still feels timely, though whether it can stand the test of time is another matter.
Sophie Ellerby (great surname) takes on the young, sully and indignant Nat – good girl gone bad. Ellerby’s scowl and persuasion were truly entertaining, as she faced the rough and tumble of office lad culture and the prying eye of Donna. By contrast, Tash (Alice Franklin) dressed to the nines with just as many perfume bottles arranged on her desk, spritzed in good measure. Not just the receptionist, but Office Manager and Trainee Consultant, she would like to imagine, Tash has just returned from major surgery with complications. Of course, though, she’d never pass up on the opportunity to jazz up the office for the Christmas Party. Tash wasn’t just ex-WAG (she says) eye candy – she can talk the talk, as well as she can walk the walk in 6 inch stilettos.
Beware, though, the insensitive and indecorous banter when the men are left alone on stage. Violence threatens in a culture of derogatory sexualisation. Joey (John Pickard – Hollyoaks) confronts middle age and financial pressure from his wife by casting his eyes elsewhere. Noelle (Scott Hazell) is a hilariously inadequate university dropout, trying his hand at recruitment but woefully unable to pick up the phone. Hazell handled the characterisation with appealing sincerity and his fate evoked real sympathy. Mervyn (Adam Brown) pathetic, obedient and try-hard becomes a kind of hero of the piece.
There are better feel good Christmas shows. There are better plays about the current state of the economy and our society. But Made By Brick have done a good job at presenting the combination of the two in Saxon Court.
Successfully funded through a Kickstarter campaign, it’s great to see Made By Brick performing again at Southwark Playhouse.
Runs until 13 December at Southwark Playhouse in the Little.
So if this wasn’t evident from my recent reviews, I steward at Southwark Playhouse – it’s a wonderful experience. I love being loyal to a particular local theatre and volunteering is a way to give a little back (and getting to see all that wonderful theatre for free).