‘Service With a Smile: On the Road’ is a collection of comedy shorts created using sketches from new writing talent from across the country and scenes devised by the actors themselves. Performed in ‘The Workers’ own unique style combining physicality and multimedia, this is one show not to be missed.
On entering Chapel Street Studio, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed. An array of props is laid out around the stage, and glancing at the list of 22 sketches in the programme, the evening certainly feels packed! Fortunately what follows is a rip-roaring evening of fast and frantic comedy.
The home shopping style presentation of ‘Generic Girlfriend’ got things off to a strong start. Combining on-stage action with pre-recorded video could be (and has been) a recipe for disaster. However, this multimedia approach actually enhanced the end product allowing a deeper level of interaction.
The group is so strong that it is difficult to pick out individual performances. That sounds trite, but every single performer has my notes scribbled down next to them in the programme. They all indulge in sly winks and nods to the audience which makes performer and audience at ease – even during some of the weaker sets.
Nathan Morris’s ‘Ad Audition’ was quite possibly one of the most extraordinarily pieces of physical theatre I have seen. Auditioning for an advert has never been so strenuous or exhausting! Chris Pererra’s ‘Twas the Night (Before Pay Day)’ is a rousing and topical update of the Yuletide fable whilst Ralph Corke’s mashup of Sex and the City and Pride and Prejudice that ‘Pride and Promiscuity’ presents raised many laughs whilst a clash of cultures opened the second half in ‘Blad’ (with one of the best lines of the evening: “It doesn’t matter how much Lynx Africa you wear, I can still smell your virginity”) and shows the sheer amount of variety packed into the 22 sketches.
Some of the Worker’s Theatre’s strengths are hidden. Rousing first act finale ‘Him and Her’ shows that when split into sexes, the camaraderie that the company clearly has with each other comes vibrantly alive. Similarly, the finale, ‘Godfather: The Musical’ displays the group’s vocal talents. It could be said that going down these roads might lead into direct competition with other comedy acts out there, but the Workers are very strong in those areas and this is something potentially worth developing.
This is not to say that the remainder of the performance wasn’t good, far from it, it was slick, accomplished and felt extremely anarchic despite the tightly controlled execution. It also wasn’t over-reliant on a closing gag, with much of the laughs coming from the quick wit and physical comedy on display.
Director Gregg Aled has had to pack in an awful lot into this jack-in-the-box. He mostly succeeds, the transitions from gag to gag are smooth and he demonstrates a firm grasp considering the demanding amounts of props and video footage included.
Going into the performance, I didn’t know what to expect. Throughout it I wavered from thinking it was hysterically nutty to side-splittingly funny. Thoroughly recommended if you like your comedy short, sharp and with a twist or two along the way. The Workers Theatre are one of the funniest groups I’ve seen. Ultimately, I left with a grin on my face, some of the gags sending me chuckling off into the night. Service with a smile, indeed.
The Fiction Stroker gives Service with a Smile: On the Road four strokes out of five: