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Grief and fluff: Tiger @OmnibusTheatre

Death is something we all will face. After all, nobody gets out of here alive. But how do you get past it when grief is all you can feel? And this is the premise of Tiger, currently playing at Omnibus Theatre . It's a fascinating exploration of the stages of grief. And with a terrific cast to take you on this journey, it's an endearing and sweet story that has you engaged from the start, wondering what will happen next.  We are introduced to Alice (Poppy Allen-Quarmby) as she gives a stand-up routine. It's not particularly funny and starts to veer into the topic of dying. Something isn't right. She used to be good at this but can't move forward. Soon, she is back in her London apartment with her partner Oli (Luke Nunn), discussing that they need to get a lodger to make ends meet.  Oli is a doctor working night shifts at the local NHS hospital. Alice is not ready to face a return to stand up or anything. So when the first potential lodger arrives (Meg Lewis), looking

Big Business: How to succeed in business without really trying @swkplay

This revival of the Frank Loesser musical is as much about climbing the corporate ladder as it is about giving a fresh take on the absurdity of the office and gender roles.  However, there's also a firm appreciation that this is a musical comedy.  And with an energetic cast with an impeccable sense of comic timing, it's a hilarious and thought-provoking evening.  It's currently playing at the Southwark Playhouse.

The show comes from a parody of a self-help business book.  The premise is that a lowly window washer becomes board chairman in a few weeks and gets the girl.  Along the way, there are stupid bosses, sexist colleagues and nepotism. 

Only this time, J Pierpoint Finch is played by Gabrielle Friedman.  Depending on your perspective, Finch is either the hero or the antihero of the piece, stopping at nothing in their ambition to reach the top.  Here Finch is more sympathetic as the underappreciated service worker getting a lucky break and a chance to climb the corporate ladder.  You can't help but root for Friedman's Finch as they plot, scheme and steal the ideas of the others to reach the top.  Opposite Friedman is trans actor Allie Daniel as the secretary Rosemary who has been on a fruitless search to find an executive to marry so she can move to the suburbs of New York with all the other lonely homemakers.

Other twists in the casting include Tracie Bennett as the overbearing boss J.B. Biggley who is hilarious as the alpha-male boss with a penchant for knitting.  She swaggers about the stage talking nonsense that's both striking in its accuracy and parody of the alpha-male office boss (of both yesteryear and today).  Other cast members such as Verity Power as Rosemary's friend Smitty, Elliot Gooch as the boss's nephew and Annie Aitken as the under-qualified secretary and J.B.'s mistress give this show its biggest laughs. 

It's a challenging musical, not just because of its take on sexual politics.  On one level, it feels like a series of comic sketches set to music.  This is particularly apparent in the first act, which runs for almost an hour and a half.  But this production doesn't let any chance to milk the comic potential of each scene pass by.  From the characters' inflexions to an inventive use of kazoos that are part of the score (they are made to look like the characters playing them are on a cigarette break).  And when the cast came together for the big finale number, the audience cheered in response to the energy and musicality on stage. 

The staging is minimalistic, which also becomes a joke in the show.  But in case you were wondering what the show is about, a large illuminated ladder dominates the piece.  Windows washers, climbing the corporate ladder, or bridging from the not-so-distant past to the present culture wars.  Whatever it is intended to mean, the show is also determined to ensure you have a great time. 

Directed by Georgie Rankcom, with music direction by Natalie Pound, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is at the Southwark Playhouse until 17 June. 


Photos by Pamela Raith

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