Corporate environments exist in their own twilight zones of meaningless buzzwords and petty politics, and as an underemployed Arts grad, I find them endlessly fascinating. What a novel idea, a stable full-time job with regular super contributions and a literal watercooler around which to gossip with co-workers!
This is the world explored in this exciting and immersive production, The Adelaide Office Live – A Paper Tale. Forget the stage, this show takes place in an actual working office, for that extra authenticity, and treats you as a part of the story, under the guise of being recruited as interns, which results in a true fly-on-the-wall experience reminiscent of its inspiration, Rickey Gervais’ highly awarded The Office. And the references to the hit TV shows (especially the superior U.S. version) are indeed heavily embedded into every aspect of the performance; from the OTT charming but barely competent boss, the prank-loving slacker pining over the cardigan-wearing receptionist, the intense and loyal-to-a-fault assistant (to the) regional manager, the tight-laced and deeply dismissive HR rep, and an overly enthusiastic young MBA grad who takes every mistake in his stride. It’s not a shot-for-shot remake, of course, but fans of the TV show will delight in each and every reference.
It’s really the little details that make this show work; the way characters continue to react and interact “off screen”, sitting amongst the audience in the sales meeting, or exchanging eye-rolls and glances while other characters are giving a lecture on the origin of paper, or having to read and sign a literal binder of HR forms for insurance purposes, and of course the classic office memes and memos littered through the performance space that very neatly mirror the politely passive aggressive ones found in every generic office (is it really a workspace if a cat isn’t telling you to hang in there?). My co-reviewer’s favourite sign was the one reminding employees not to sing in the elevator, which you quickly realise is due to the fact it echoes. All. The way. Down.
All the acting in this show is convincing and delightful. Everyone inhabits their caricatures so well that there were moments where I wasn’t sure that this wasn’t a real group interview. Special mention goes to Dwayne, and his ambushing of unsuspecting “interns” with some odd survey questions upon arrival – trust me when I say it pays off to give interesting responses – in true Schrute style, to Tim and Sam as the only two normal people in the office, and of course to the fittingly cringeworthy and overbearing Mark, who played his archetype so well he even bought his own “World’s Best Boss” mug.
This show takes all best aspects of Rickey Gervais’ creations, satirising corporate office culture by focusing on the weird and wonderful characters, and brings it to life all around you. If you love The Office, or if you work in an office and need to cathartically laugh at how ridiculous it is, you’re going to love The Adelaide Office Live – A Paper Tale.
Words by Simone Corletto.
The Adelaide Office Live – A Paper Tale performs at 70 Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide, on the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 23rd of Feb, and the 2nd, 8th and 9th of March.