A STRATEGIC PLAN
A STRATEGIC PLAN, Griffin Theatre Company at the SBW Stables Theatre, 27 January-11 March 2017. Photography by Brett Boardman: above - l-r Matt Day, Emele Ugavule and Justin Smith; below - Emele Ugavule and a whiteboard; below again - Briallen Clarke and Justin Smith
There is endless unintentional humour to be found in the corporate slurry pit of KPIs, mission statements, bringing to the table, breaking through the clutter, performance improvement systems and missions statements. Most recently, in this exasperatingly entertaining genre, the ABC scored big hits with The Games and Utopia and the BBC with Twenty Twelve and WC1A – full of characters puffed up with pomp and circumstance whose every utterance is incomprehensible to normal people.
And that’s where A Strategic Plan comes in. The truth of such an artefact as the one of the title is that no one has a clue, there is no strategy to speak of and definitely no plan worth pursuing. In the middle of this mess is Andrew (Justin Smith) whose once carefree life as a rock muso ploughed head-on into reality: no money, no future, no prospects. So he actually got a job – saving Staccato, a not-for-profit youth music outfit from financial oblivion.
Unknown to Andrew, however, there is a move afoot, emanating from Matt Day as Simon, chair of the board of management to offer him (pick one) a career alternative enhancement, employee transition, skill-mix adjustment or career change opportunity; because they want to (pick another one) defund, dehire, deselect, destaff, decruit or in other words, bring in a bit of (pick yet another one) indefinite idling, unassigning, excessing and re-engineering of his gig. Yes: he’s fired, sacked, dumped, bounced, canned, axed, given the old heave-ho and released to...pursue other interests.
Except it doesn’t go quite like that. Being de-accessioned by a man who can say without irony, “Sure man, sure. Awesome, fantastic,” doesn’t sit well with Andrew. Nor does the HR maven Linda (Briallen Clarke) who spews jargon with the expertise of a 23-year-old cocktail binger on a Friday night.
Andrew takes legal action against the management and his situation grows ever more surreal when he finds himself in a situation with his barrister and lawyer (Day and Clarke again) where they are speaking yet another language of indecipherable cliche and argot.
The only light in this dark nightmare is Jill (Emele Ugavule) who’s employed at Staccato to do marketing and general run-arounds. But she is as passionate about music and sound as Andrew and dreams of becoming a producer and having her own recording label.
There is much ado about whiteboards and nothing being worse than permanent markers in Ross Mueller’s 100 minutes of workplace horror-comedy. Like all shows (TV and otherwise) in this niche of 1st world of work mockumentary, it’s almost intolerable because the joke is on us (those who suffer or have suffered under the piffle-spouting superiority of marketing and HR).
Director Chris Mead sets a cracking pace that almost, but not quite, disguises the longueurs in the script. Like so many new plays, this one could do with a bit more strategic planning itself, but is sufficiently well observed and wry to be worth the effort.
Designer Sophie Fletcher and lighting designer Verity Hampson provide sly visual fun while sound designer and composer Steve Francis does the music biz to a tee. A Strategic Plan is aided in its execution by sparkling performances from the four actors, with Matt Day and Briallen Clarke revelling successfully in the opportunity to be blithely obnoxious. At the same time Emele Ugavule and Justin Smith make fine work of the more sympathetic and therefore harder to realise muso-dreamers. Collectively they keep the show on the road and are all terrific.
Recommended, with reservations (ie, 3.75 stars).