The cult comedy series, The Office, starring Ricky Gervais, has been screened in over 80 countries, sold millions of DVDs and won over 20 awards, one of the most successful BBC exports. Its international success is perhaps due to the universal setting of work, social milieu of colleagues and petty office politics.
The setting for “My Romantic History” is a small office where in the first scene, Tom arrives for his first day at work. You can envisage from his awkward, nervous manner that he feels like a new boy at school as he meets two colleagues, Sasha - “I’ll show you around …. 9 for an outside line …”, and Amy from the second floor – “ it isn’t that bad, I’ve worked much worse places.”
The premise of the play is given in the first line, “Where do you meet people? If you haven’t met someone by the time you graduate, you’re going to marry some cxxx from work.” And so we enter the enclosed, intimate world of filing cabinets, photocopier, desks and coffee breaks and the inevitable invitation for a drink after work. As Tom wisely remarks, no one goes for a drink, it’s nine, or none.
The dialogue, with hilarious thought-processing asides to the audience, cracks along at a fast pace with a sharp satirical wit. When an unexpected romantic liaison develops, the plot takes on a Woody Allen-style narration, as Tom reveals personal fears and insecurities, and memories of past experiences and relationships.
The cast of three actors also play themselves in flash back scenes, introducing the girlfriends, boyfriends and lost loves from their teenage years. Life ahead seems scary, the trap of a dead end office job, the trap of marriage and kids.
With superb performances, in particular by Iain Roberston as Tom, played with innocent vulnerability and boyish charm, this is a slick, truthful and brilliantly observed romantic comedy. Think "Catcher in the Rye" and "Gregory’s Girl" and you’ll get the picture.
5th - 29th August - Traverse Theatre ( run over)
1st - 11th September - Birmingham repertory theatre
15 September - 2 October - The Crucible, Sheffield
20 October - 20 November - The Bush Theatre, London