Charli Foreman for A Blown Job

A Blown Job is described on Camdram as ‘intended for the cast, crew and audience to have as much fun as possible… not take itself seriously… and spread joy’. The play definitely spreads joy, and you can tell that the cast, despite the difficulties, have enjoyed making what is the closest we will get to putting on a musical for now.

Hats off to the writers – Thomas Cox and Dominic Carrington – for creating a show that works in incredibly difficult circumstances, being merely separate actors’ recordings collaged together. For the most part it still felt cohesive, with the notable exception that there were some issues with timing that felt discordant, especially in larger full-cast dance routines and occasionally with characters having to speak over each other or singing slightly in canon.

“While it seems lots of theatre this term has engaged with metatheatre to combat the difficulties that come with virtual performances, this is one of the best examples.”

The format meant there was not much chance for the kind of back-and-forth comedy we would have seen in person, especially notable in the double act of the “two bobbies’”, Nicole Tilby and Gabriel Jones. However, although some chemistry was missing, both actors were strong individually, with Tilby in particular showcasing excellent vocal capabilities and great delivery of comic lines even without someone else to play off. The writing managed somewhat to make up for the lack of dynamism through plenty of cheesy puns, plays on the expectations of the genre, meta moments, and witty references to COVID. The writing was especially comically sharp at the start of the play – a speech from Tilby about abbreviations suggesting in the end her partner is “F-U-C-K-E-D” was particularly good, as was a comically clueless bank clerk attempting to sell multiple mortgages to a bank robber. However, the comedy took a step back towards the end of the play as the drama picked up, with ethical dilemmas about doing the right thing in an unjust society and a plot full of twists, mistaken identities and double agents, but this is to be expected when there is so much to explain to us.

My biggest issue with the writing was that we never had the motivations of one bank robber, Juliana, who was particularly intent on a successful heist, explained. Played by Anna McDonald, Juliana was a particularly strong and, even across a screen, more complex character than the others, and it would have been interesting to properly explore this. On the flipside, the stereotypes and physicality and energy of Emilia Grace and Madeleine Rawles, playing a supervillain and brawny bank robber, was also an absolute joy to watch and two standout performances. I would like to note that all the characters continued to give excellent “reactions” to events even though they were just a screen in the corner, which was definitely a nice touch and emphasised the dedication of even minor characters to their roles.

“A Blown Job is almost as much of a joy to watch as it seems it was for the cast to create.”

I enjoyed the sneaky little references to the fact that this was a play we were watching at home, breaking the fourth wall and allowing a sense of audience participation even outside the theatre. This came in multiple ways; an announcement at the start that we could keep our phones on loud if we wanted to, the note that they would have had an interval in a real play halfway through, and even a reference in a romantic song to the pandemic: ‘I’d buy us a drink’ ‘COVID’ ‘with a really long straw’. Perhaps the most meta element of the show is the “breaking news” anchorman, Thomas Cox, who literally “anchors″ us in place in the story, explaining the situation we are in, providing dramatic pauses. While it seems lots of theatre this term has engaged with metatheatre to combat the plot based and interactive difficulties that come with virtual performances, this is one of the best examples.


Mountain View

Good grief: A play at odds with its theatrical form

The band and vocalists were also impressive given this must have all been, I presume, pre-recorded separately and stitched together. There were some hiccups with harmonies – equipment not being able to properly record the full range of vocalists, and the first song seemed to me a little discordant in the timing of the band – but for the most part it was brilliant.

The editors really have, as they state in one of their ‘breaking news’ tidbits, carried this season of theatre. Their work here is great; they managed to create visually appealing collages of full casts, and did some incredible editing of individuals especially on the ‘inside the inside man number’, with comically self-aware black and white filters, zoom ins and cuts in time with the music.

Overall, A Blown Job did an excellent job despite the limitations, and is almost as much of a joy to watch as it seems it was for the cast to create.