HELENA FOX

The morning after a particularly raucous mid-week office party, the HR department lie about, hungover, on the ADC stage. Who knows what they were celebrating, what company they work for, or even what human resources actually means? Certainly not these 6 characters, each of whom is distinct and yet thoroughly interchangeable. They have detailed personalities – one wants the milk replaced, one is the meticulous, type A manager, and one, wait for it, has a regional accent. It is clear that none of the young creatives making up the cast would ever be content in the setting they have chosen, and perhaps this discomfort is what drives them to rely on simplistic characters.

Sometimes simple is effective, however, and the simplicity of this sketch show’s overarching narrative is certainly a strong suit. Nostalgically reminiscent of The Office, but with a younger, more uni-like energy, the HR department provided solid coherency and a vehicle for the versatile costumes and set. Abby Zucker’s set was sufficiently generic to be put to multiple uses and evoke different settings but was personalised to such a degree that we always felt tethered to the HR department office. Matching blue ties could be put to multiple costuming uses, and presented the cast as a single, comic unit. Indeed, the easy chemistry between cast members was evident in the ensemble scenes, and as such, the end result felt like a truly collaborative effort, with none of the competition between individual comedians sometimes seen in student comedy.

The HR scenes smoothly gave way to individual sketches, which cleverly riffed off passing lines in the main narrative. Personal favourites included the ‘tour guide exchange,’ which saw Jamie Bisping and Lottie Elton as Russians guiding the audience around the Coliseum in Rome, and a phone sex session that becomes rather too anatomical, one of the few sketches that pushed the decidedly PG rating of the show (odd for an ADC late show, but rather refreshing). Both these sketches demonstrate that situational comedy is a strength with this particular troupe. The play’s second use of film, in which Jesus (Harriet Fisher) is interviewed Vogue-style, is a witty satirical moment well executed. Although there were a few tech issues, overall music and lighting was polished and enhanced rather than distracted. 

"It is clear that the cast is made up of genuinely talented comics"

It is a shame that too often they devolve into jokes which seem deliberately bad, with dad-joke style punchlines and puns forming the bread and butter of the majority of sketches. It was funny enough for the overprotective mother to back-seat drive while her daughter remains calm and collected, did the scene really need to devolve into madness? Satirical moments are damaged with clumsy punchlines. It is clear that the cast is made up of genuinely talented comics, so it is disappointing to see them so frequently rely on under-refined one-liners and over-blown hysterics.


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Having said this, the show overall is immensely entertaining and worthwhile. It feels like a coherent unit, consistent in tone and quality throughout. The group play off each others’ energy, and the audience’s – inspired fourth wall breaks immerse the audience and keep them engaged, energy high, for the duration of the performance. The evening is bookended with a group Enid Blyton inspired sketch which appeals perfectly to the audience – the pure nostalgia of our childhoods have been eroded by the harsh realities of 21st-century life, and maybe this is the message Human Resources wants to convey. In a musical number, each of our 6 characters relates their previous ambitions, put to one side as they are forced to participate in a seemingly meaningless white collar job. Are the Footlights offering us a warning, or consolation that even in the most mundane of settings, laughter can be found?

 

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