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Work dramas are often very amusing. After all, what could be more therapeutic after a hard day in the office than relaxing in front of somebody else’s traumas in the workplace.
And on that level, this comedy by Jonathan Lewis and Miranda Foster raises a few laughs. It opens a window onto the world of voice-over actors – those performers who for reasons of financial necessity or professional misadventure have become stranded, as one of the characters puts it, “in the audio-wilderness”.
There is a certain delight in spying on what is by definition an unseen world. And there are plenty of heartfelt gags about the absurdities of the profession, with faceless voices enjoining a hapless actor doing a washing powder ad to “sound more aspirational”, or members of a cast dubbing a cheap porn movie breaking off mid-pant to check their text messages.
This could have been a sharp and revealing comedy, but the flimsy plot and paper-thin characterisation let it down.
We are in a small flat in Soho, daytime refuge of a group of actors. As we join them they have an urgent matter on their hands: an impending strike to protest at the possibility of the industry replacing them altogether with digitally created voiceovers.
The strike-leader is the aged Digby (Christopher Benjamin), whose sonorous tones earn him piles of money, but whose weakness for handsome young actors leads him into trouble. He is offered a hugely lucrative new job – if he breaks the strike. As he struggles with his conscience, his friends and comrades-in-arms find necessity propels them to cross the picket line. And so we head for the inevitable showdown.
Somehow, no twist in this plot is surprising. The issues are certainly potentially meaty, but they are underplayed, and the actors’ personal problems are likewise dealt with on a superficial level. Mel’s (Caroline Harker) separation from her small children in an acrimonious divorce and Greg’s (Nigel Whitmey) advancing deafness seem mildly inconvenient.
The cast in Lewis’s production do their best – offering a particularly enjoyable pastiche of EastEnders, the British soap opera – but there is a sneaky bit of you wondering if a Mr Sheen ad wouldn’t offer them just as much to chew on.
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