Low Hanging Fruit
Nat Jane Productions @ The Soul Box
4:30pm, Sun 17 Feb 2013
There’s a small (but enthusiastic) crowd gathered for this performance of Low Hanging Fruit; it also marked my first visit to The Soul Box, which provides performers with a wide, shallow stage. The set is simple: a row of desks and three chairs, along with perfunctory props to create the feel of an office environment.
This is a branch of the Gibbons & Lipshutt recruitment agency, and we’re initially introduced to the green Jason, who awkwardly bumbles through his management of jobseeker Ruby via the office operations manual. Slick Seth soon enters, sweeps Ruby into his care with a cool indifference, and – after promising her the world and dismissing her from the office – proceeds to berate Jason, comparing his junior’s lack-of-achievement to his own checklist of wins… Seth, it seems, can do it all, whether it be in the workplace or bedding women, and he’s clearly the top dog in the office.
When the more sedate (but work-focussed) Hannah enters the office, and it is revealed that one of the three workers will be retrenched at the end of the week, the potential for a backstabbing triangle develops; Seth naturally feels that he has nothing to worry about, with his natural charm and paternal influence on the Gibbons & Lipshutt directors. Hannah, who needs the position to sponsor her visa, is in a more delicate predicament, and Jason’s dweebishness naturally marks him as the odd one out. But Seth “loses” his mobile phone with all his work contacts, preventing him from closing any deals; when Jason finds the phone, and uses the information therein to increase his KPIs, the tables are decisively turned.
And that last element is really troubling to me; normally, I’m all in favour of the underdog, but Low Hanging Fruit seems to be espousing the idea that Jason’s theft of Seth’s phone & wallet in order to climb up the corporate ladder was fine; that cheating is a legitimate way to the top. And maybe that’s the point of the play… but it’s a bloody unpalatable point.
But that’s not the only problem with the play: whilst Stephen Coutts is wonderfully slimy as Seth, he doesn’t receive much support – and Amy Gubana is criminally underused as Ruby. The dialogue is rarely convincing, the comic moments raise groans rather than chuckles, and the songs – yes, there’s the occasional musical sojourn – feel cheesy, and are infrequent enough to genuinely bemuse when they appear.
It’s a shame, really – despite the interesting motivational triangle that is set up by the play, nothing really seems to work, and I end up leaving the performance thinking that I never want to encounter any of these unlikeable characters again. And, combined with the lacklustre presentation, it’s hard to take anything positive out of the experience.