The Appraisal, Review. Edinburgh Fringe ’22.

Rating: 🍷🍷🍷🍷

4 out of 5. For now. But will soon, we think, be the Full bottle!

The World Premiere of a tense, relatable, British thriller.

There’s a kind of genius with this new play, written and directed by Fringe stalwart, Tim Marriott. And, full disclosure, not only do I now know all those involved with this production, but watching this world premiere in the small container-case theatre on Princes Street, I shockingly realised that I’ve led such a chaotic (bohemian?) life, I’ve NEVER actually had a work appraisal! Although judging from the knowing chuckles from the rest of the audience, I am very much in a very small minority. And I’m not SO excluded from ‘proper’ life that I couldn’t relate to the corporate jargon and H.R. ‘speak’. After all, I’ve had to do risk assessments for theatre!

But what Marriott has done is create a British Theatre piece that keeps us guessing. It’s not as dark as, say, Mammet’s Oleanna. And there isn’t the variety of situations we might find in Russell’s Educating Rita. And this is its genius, I think. We almost instantly know these characters! They are us. There’s a glorious, Brechtian theatricality to their non-theatricality.

The play sees Jo (Joe?), the line manager of Nicky (Niki?) conducting her annual work appraisal. No big deal, right? It happens every year to millions around the world (apart from me..!) So what could go wrong with this routine occurrence? And that’s the clever bit. We’re in a theatre watching a drama but the drama forms from its inherent normality.

Brilliant performances from Angela Bull and Nicholas Collett allow us to relate to the characters like easy friends. In other plays and circumstances, when manager Jo stands uncomfortably close to Nicky, we’d be expecting an inappropriate, dramatic act. But here, Nicky feels uncomfortable and just moves away. Like we all would. No drama! We believe that Nicky is just going through the usual corporate game. And we believe that Jo genuinely cares about his employees.

So when normality starts to deteriorate, gently and almost accidentally, the cracks appear. Things escalate and we’re horrified for these ‘normal’ people suddenly dealing with life changing situations.

And there’s a twist at the end.

But is it the end? Even though it stands on its own, I found out that this acclaimed piece is apparently only the first half of a planned two-act play!

I look forward to seeing the full production. And ticking that box. I hope my line-manager agrees!

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