Updated: Dec 4, 2021
Written by: Ellie Cansdale
Before reviewing this performance, the only information I had was that I would be entering into the world during 2026. Little did I know the reality of the situation brilliantly written and directed by Isaac Brady. Only 5 years down the line and yet already the pound has died, and ‘colleagues’ of The Superstore are under threat of a superior intelligence.
Walking into the Alec Clegg theatre, a small but intimate space that suited the performance, we saw a trio of performers awaiting us. On the back wall glowed in white on a bright blue background - the words “NO EXIT” appear. An ominous phrase that sticks with us for the entire performance, reminding us that they cannot leave and encouraging us to question why.
After listening to a few different remixes of dystopian pop beats setting the tone of the afternoon, the lights went down, and a spotlight illuminated our first character. A projection of an eye not too dissimilar to that of Big Brother appears on the back wall in the same blue and white glow. We are introduced to the world, through a voice over of the ‘Overlooker’ as they introduce their new colleague to the Superstore. We are told that they were the ones who abolished the minimum wage as well as carrying out a record amount of human violation acts. Lucy Yellow, playing Jasmine, holds our attention with her enthusiastic but regretful facial reactions as she listens with us.
We are then introduced to the rest of the actors through their characters, the Supervisor, played by Mia Franey who dons a Mr Monopoly style moustache, Igor played by Meghan Haynes with an excellent Russian accent, Laura played by Polly Dey, Jack played by Arthur Bell, and Sam played by Will Challis. This strong ensemble joined later by the writer-director himself, multi-roled spectacularly providing us with several other characters, including robots… yes robots. The trope of a dystopia with robots can often be seen as overdone but this production is very aware of this and plays on the concept brilliantly through their humorous costume and plot lines for these machines.
All photos in this article by Alice Hautvast
The cast’s acting strength coupled with the simplistic and comedic directing style led to an excellent production of this new writing. The blue and white futuristic theme filled this show with its set design. Bright blue painted wooden chairs, a shopping trolley filled with random things and a box covered in foil are the main props and set used to help build this futuristic store. This dystopia was furthered by the costume; all the superstore colleagues wore blue painters’ overalls, other characters are distinguished by their hair, or additional costume added on top of these suits. Whether this choice was a logistical or aesthetic one, it was effective as it created the feeling of everyone being trapped in this new world.
After our initial introductions to these characters, we see what it is like to work in the Superstore. Brilliant comedic sequences show us the relationships between these characters and the mundane tasks they must carry out, though two of them, Igor and Sam are desperate to earn the right of being the ‘employee of the month’. The two are happy to “to dedicate [their] life to this illusion,” as pointed out by Jack. Their internal competition runs alongside the frustrations of Jack and Laura as they complain about the world, a lovely bond played well by Bell and Dey. To escape this depressing reality the two play with the imagined commentators of Kevin and Pete who we get to see in the flesh. This adds an extra layer of well-written comedy which helps us follow the plot but did at times feel a bit much; a lot of action filled the stage making it hard for the audience to determine where we were supposed to be looking.
Alongside these four, we also meet Angela, the conspiracy-theory ‘nutter’ who sees the reality of the situation, wearing a tin-foil hat to keep away the bad waves. Franey plays this character so well and so convincingly the audience were in constant giggles as she fought off her stress and shouted at the others for “living in [their] bubble[s].”
The company introduce robots to the store, and though the colleagues tell themselves that all will be fine, Jasmine falls in love with one of them and they soon realise the evil truth. We see the director Isaac Brady join the cast to play the Kiwi presenter, recruiting them for the ‘Colleagues Against Robots’ movement. Brady’s acting in this section is well directed and performed; he speaks to the audience as though we are also colleagues further enforcing this idea that we are all trapped in the Superstore. His performance switches smoothly and comedically between an air of ‘everything is fine’ to that of ‘RUN FOR YOUR LIVES’.
An ingenious PowerPoint presentation is displayed at the end of the production showing us where the characters were after the ending charge towards the audience as they fought for their lives and their jobs. The audience were in hysterics!
Overall, an enjoyable sold-out show, filled with excellent pop culture references, from Star Wars to the Titanic, that showed disturbing parallels to the real world in a beautifully comedic package.