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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Saxon Court
Southwark Playhouse  November-December 2014

It's Christmas party time at the recruitment agency's office, but there's little to celebrate. 

There are few job-hunters and fewer jobs to match them to, business is lousy, there are protesters outside the building, the receptionist hasn't fully recovered from her boob job and someone has made an unholy mess in the toilet.

Daniel Andersen's play opens like a typical office-based TV sitcom, and seems for a while to be heading in that direction. There's a one-of-each comic cast – the sexy receptionist, the innuendo-spouting stud, the mousy newcomer and the like – and you settle in for a string of easy jokes with perhaps the occasional touch of rue.

But the jokes don't come, and neither does much pathos. Apart from being concerned about their jobs, each character has personal problems that lead them to lash out at each other. 

The body of the play consists of just about everyone taking a turn being gratuitously nasty to just about everyone else, in just about every permutation. The boss fires everyone in turn and then un-fires them so she can humiliate them further, everybody dumps on the mousy guy, and as various secrets come out they just provide targets for the others' attacks. 

You get the sense that Andersen is attempting a Mike Leigh-type sympathetic portrait of how insecurity and desperation lead people to behave. For that to work, though, we'd have to feel some empathy for these people, understanding rather than judging. 

But despite the efforts of director Melanie Spencer and a hard-working cast, the characters in Saxon Court only become more than the stereotypes they seemed at the start to turn into uniformly unpleasant and unsympathetic figures. And a couple of hours spent in their company is, well, unpleasant.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Saxon Court - Southwark Playhouse 2014 

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