An office. A small, yet functional office. Striving to succeed. A desperate office. Even the office plant is dying to get out. But can the staff? The Kings Arms saw an impressively packed opening night for the debut play by Barry Evans (perhaps better known for his work behind the One Play, One Day series – which incidentally returns on 2 September).
Set in the offices of McCauleys Double Glazing “for all your uPVC needs” Have a Very Nice Day focuses on the office politics between the floor and management staff. Emily and Andrew are on the front line, but Andrew’s hatred of his job pales into insignificance with the arrival of new starter Taylor. Meanwhile, supervisor Abigail and blue-sky thinking obsessed boss Ethan play out a dangerous office romance.
Have a Very Nice Day has been well cast. Helen Batchelor is very funny as the hypochondriac Emily. Maia Terra’s super efficient and steely Abigail is fun to watch butting heads with Andrew and Taylor. Stuart Crowther demonstrates his versatility as Andrew whilst Aaron Cobham’s comic timing as Taylor is put to good use. Finally, Ben Jewell’s Ethan is a marvellous creation in the Gordon Gecko mould.
Evans has created a group of interesting characters that no doubt reflect people in your workplace. From clean freak Emily through to disillusioned Andrew and boss Ethan, who is so ignorant of his staff’s needs or wants but retains his own sense of self-importance: “Have you made me enough money for my sailing trip yet? Ha!”. Yet he turns what could be a very dry subject into something funnier – the situations our characters find themselves in are so ludicrous, the nature of the bonus being one such incident – yet I bet you could top them with shenanigans in your workplace. Having had the script reviewed by Sir Alan Ayckbourn and others, it has developed, been tightened, and on the stage looks polished. Dialogue is snappy, and it feels as if you are looking through a window, rather than at the stage.
As things develop, there is a distinct air of the Tales of the Unexpected. To say more would spoil the plot, but Ethan’s quest for the perfect office does not seem to know any bounds. Dipping your hand in the biscuit tin turns into “stealing from a colleague” for the benefit of a reference – circumstances chain all our characters firmly to their desks. The “have a very nice day” motif takes on a life of its own – almost echoing The Prisoner’s “Be seeing you”. Definitely the creepiest call centre you’ll ever see.
There is a surprising amount of depth you can read into the script. Looking at the office as a hive – if Emily, Andrew and Taylor are the drones – who is the Queen Bee – is it Abigail, or Ethan? I know where my money is – and the power struggle between Ethan and Abigail with their ensuing backstory adds another dimension to the office. The innocuous looking quote on the whiteboard (“Master your fear, or fear will become your master”) is also chillingly prophetic.
Unfortunately, the ending seems to be a bit rushed and comes to a head rather quickly. The steady air of menace that has been created evaporates which is a great shame – however there is still a lot to like in the play. Regardless, this is still, for the most part, a solid piece of storytelling and even if you can’t relate to the exact circumstances – surely you can relate to the characters and just be grateful that you don’t work for McCauley’s Double Glazing.
The Fiction Stroker gives Have a Very Nice Day three strokes out of five:
Have a Very Nice Day continues until 3 August at the Kings Arms Theatre, Bloom St, Salford. You can find out more about the production on their website.