Friday, 12 September 2014

Theatre review: Fully Committed

To mark ten years as the expensive face of off-West End theatre, the Menier Chocolate Factory have revived one of their earliest hits, the one-man show Fully Committed. The actor who originated the role, Mark Setlock takes the directing reins, while Kevin Bishop plays Sam, a wannabe actor who's not had much success, and a recent rejection from an HBO drama has hit particularly hard. To pay the bills he has a job taking reservations for a New York restaurant, currently the trendiest place in town, and as a result people are willing to try all sorts of tricks to get a table. It's the runup to Christmas and both his co-workers have failed to turn up, so Sam is left on his own in a grim basement to take calls from people pulling rank, threatening and bribing him to get ahead of the queue, while upstairs in the restaurant and kitchen his colleagues are happy to pile on more indignities.

Jumping between Sam and all the people he speaks to on the phone over the course of the day, Bishop gets through several dozen characters, often juggling between a number of them kept on hold at the same time.

Perhaps I've been spoilt for good comedy this week, but while Fully Committed is amiable enough, it never quite reaches the comic heights to justify the energy that Bishop expends on it. Or maybe I was put off by the fact that Becky Mode's play opens with a number of cheap gags about foreigners having funny voices, something I find both uncomfortable to watch1, and a lazy comic choice.

Monologues can be visually dull, so Tim Shortall's detailed set helps avoid that, and while pointedly keeping the late-'90s setting doesn't particularly add anything, it does stop any questions about why all this chaos isn't being organised by doing everything online. Mode's play satisfyingly ties everything up as Sam finally turns his various disasters around to his own advantage, and Bishop is undoubtedly impressive at switching lighting-fast between voices, but in the end it all felt like a lot of effort put into a piece that never quite caught fire.

Fully Committed by Becky Mode is booking until the 15th of November at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes straight through.

1yes, he does stick his teeth out for the Japanese character

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