Fully Committed

23 October 2019 | 1:08 pm | Sean Maroney

"We are caught up and see ourselves on stage." Pic by Prudence Upton.

Sam (Contessa Treffone) spends her days managing the reservations for a chef-hatted restaurant. Non-spoiler: the head chef, the French maître d', and most of the callers are entitled gits. The telephone’s wires are crossed as if in a 2019 Gordian knot—the VIP's demands for table 31, for softer lighting and for no corn on the menu, tangle and strangle poor Sam. Molecular gastronomy sounds simple compared to our protagonist’s thankless tasks. And if that’s not enough, she’s waiting to hear back about an audition, and trying to get Christmas off to see her dad. 

Contessa Treffone is brilliant as she feels her way into character after character. We're reminded of our own fair share of prickish employers by Treffone's rendition of the manspreading, slack-jawed boss or the uptight maître d'. The energy of the show is drawn from Treffone’s performance of every single caller over the show's 90 minutes. Characters like Bob from Gwyneth Paltrow’s office, Mrs Vandevere, whose socks are probably 1000-thread-count linen, and the woman complaining that they didn’t accept her seniors’ discount, send shivers down the audience’s spines and gasps of laughter out of our throats.

Anna Tregloan’s set design evokes that feeling of horrible claustrophobia, with a dark, stained door at the top of stairs, and Sam fenced in by phones below – the other employees call it "downstairs". The blinking red phone lights that surround Sam evoke the demonic sprite of capitalist drudgery. She is the ultimate underling, the shit-kicker. The script’s classic character arc from downtrodden to liberated is enlivened by Kate Champion’s direction, which focuses on pace and physicality. While the actions of answering phones, switching between characters, and bitching and suffering could become repetitive and monotonous, Champion's direction and Treffone's performance hurls the audience forwards. We are caught up and see ourselves on stage – young, hopeful and acquiescent. And we all want Sam – and that version of ourselves – to stick it to the man. 

Fully Committed is a big finger to the nasty side of prestige, and a knowing nod to the workers who remain resilient at its cutting edge.