Adelaide Fringe. Black Box Theatre, Noel Lothian Hall, Adelaide. 3-15 March 2020

Four business colleagues try to save their company from the brink of collapse in this express comedy from American writer Brian Parks – and this corporate satire finds new laughs in familiar places.

The first-rate ensemble cast of David Daradan, Joanne Hartstone, Jimmy Lyons and Anton Schrama are all grey-suited middle managers, but each conveys different characteristics. Schrama is brilliant as the sensitive fall guy, holding aloft his highlighters and talking to his shoes. Lyons relishes every word of his rapid fire dialogue – his long-winded insult a triumph of convolution and delivery. Hartstone (who also directs this piece) has the physicality to make us laugh almost before she opens her mouth and then has some of the best one-liners, while Daradan is a manic manager, displaying strength in ignorance; a wild animal caught in the headlights.

Hartstone’s direction is also tremendous: the four actors work so well together and have been drilled into where to stand and move, which is an achievement across the many, many, short and sharp scenes. Each of these is punctuated by a blackout and re-framing of the stage – in a literal sense, as fluorescent tubes rotate to create a corner of an office, a long horizontal line in the conference room, or a box in the elevator.

Tom Kitney’s design gives the clever lighting an important role in setting the scene and telling us when we’re somewhere else – a few chairs and a desk are the only set; the stage is otherwise bare. Light is used here as more than just physical illumination: there are “God rays” in a discussion on heaven and a fantastic visual with just two bright torches in the theatre haze. Sound is also vital: the music isn’t just inter-scene, it’s thematic; the elevator music and a ring-tone – all have meaning.

If you know life in an office, there’s a lot to recognise here: the stationery cupboard, the race to the photocopier, elevator etiquette – and the comedy lifted from these is fresh and funny. Playwright Parks diverts into wonderful examinations of language (not just English!) and although the word play doesn’t always land, it’s so fast and frequent that the next one will raise a smile.

The narrative can be a little flimsy, but these often surreal, usually ridiculous explorations don’t leave a lot of room for depth of story. Yet it works; this isn’t so different from real life corporate tales.

Once again, Hartstone-Kitney Productions have brought unique theatre and entertainment to the Adelaide Fringe.  Enterprise is funny, absurd and highly recommended.

Mark Wickett

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