Happy Hour is the seventh show from Liverpool-based physical theatre company Tmesis, and continues in the vein of 2015’s That’s Amore – four performers on a wry, sideways rollercoaster ride through modern life, brimming with as much fun as poignancy. Turning its attention to the world of work, this time Tmesis create a universe that owes as much to 1984 as it does Morecambe and Wise; like Terry Gilliam’s Brazil with David Brent in the lead.
Over-optimistic, over-sensitive team leader Adam (Adam Davies) certain channels his best Ricky Gervais; his second-in-command Jen (Jennifer Essex) would stab her colleagues in the front for a sniff of career progression; hapless Dave (Ian Cook) is struggling to fit in; and the New Girl (Eleni Edipidi) doesn’t speak a word of English.
As their hectic workday progresses, the disembodied voice of the higher powers on the floors above reminds them of the ever-shifting goalposts of the targets that will always have their jobs, and lives, hanging by a thread; and as the stress begins to pile on, each character takes their turn to retreat into their own fantasy world -these segments are particular highlights.
It is familiar and unsettling at once – the broad comedy of the microcosm of office politics, played against an omnipotent, yet unseen Big Brother-style authority that controls their lives. Lois Maskell’s grey, towering set of filing cabinets and boxes keeps the characters trapped and isolated from the outside world.
Director Elinor Randle steers the audience through the chaos with a hectic, yet well-paced hour of movement that does not waste a moment and enthrals and intrigues from beginning to end. Tmesis’s regular collaborator Chris Fittock again provides an elegant text that poses the bigger questions, while the excellent ensemble work together to create a cast of characters that are funny, sympathetic and entertaining.