[2014021] Safety First

[2014021] Safety First

Dylan Cole @ Gluttony – La Petite Grande

10:30pm, Sun 16 Feb 2014

A friend had raved about Safety First, and – after discovering it was performed by Dylan Cole (creator of last year’s enjoyable collection of NED talks) – I immediately squeezed it into my Schedule. A short run meant that it pretty much shaped the day, but luckily the late-night timeslot didn’t cause too many problems.

My desire to grab a burger (is it me, or have the burgers at Gluttony been slowly-but-steadily declining in quality over the years?) meant that I was at the tail end of the queue entering La Petite Grange, which turned out to be an odd venue for a show: it’s a small round tent with banked seating covering about 160 degrees of the central stage. The thin crowd – thirty people, tops – spread out over the entire bank, giving Dylan (who plays high-vis-tie-wearing workplace safety expert Tim Cole) no clear direction to project his performance.

Safety First is performed as a workplace safety seminar: we’re each presented with a questionnaire upon entry, with our answers group-evaluated once complete… here (somewhat embarrassingly) are my responses:

  1. I feel safest when… being cuddled
  2. In a fire I must always… dance! (I have no idea what I was thinking here)
  3. A hazard is… an opportunity!
  4. Who is the most important person in the world? the OH&S Officer!

Once the questionnaire was out of the way, Cole took us through a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation that was laced with anecdotes featuring his colleagues, who all feature the names of famous actors: the most notable was the recurring George Clooney, a chap who seemed to have the worst workplace safety record imaginable, as Cole recounted incident after incident where Clooney loses fingers, limbs, and his eyesight.

There’s jokes a-plenty at the expense of onerous policies, and the dry corporate-speak that Cole presents hits the right notes; there’s even a little coffee break in the middle of the show with cream biscuits (“the good kind – none of that home-brand rubbish”) that sit uncomfortably in front of a reluctant audience before Cole hoards his favourites. Evacuation procedures cop a bit of flak, and the first-aid segment – featuring an audience member performing CPR on a blowup sex doll – is a hoot. The recurring thread of phone calls from Cole’s boss (Richard E. Grant) regarding the legal case being brought against Cole for a seminar-related injury is also a blinder.

But there’s two big memories I’ll take away from Safety First: the first is entirely intentional, and featured Cole’s constant phone calls with his soon-to-be-estranged wife (who just happened, in the celebrity-laced nature of the show, to look like Julia Roberts). These one-sided conversations were absolutely dripping with dark humour and pathos, and – as uncomfortable as some of them were – provided the highlight of the script for me. But the other Big Memory was the older gentleman (perhaps in his sixties, who most certainly did not have English as his first language) who arrived just as the show was about to begin. Sitting at the far left of the seating, he always faced the pole in the centre of the tent, rarely facing Cole as he performed, and even more rarely observing the PowerPoint presentation. I began thinking that this gent really thought this was a legitimate workplace safety seminar: he seemed to glare at people giggling at Cole’s material, and appeared to even take notes on his phone once or twice. But when the penny dropped, his interruptions (usually scoffing disbelief at George Clooney’s running tally of injuries) was taken well within Cole’s stride.

Whilst I didn’t find Safety First to be as holistically satisfying as NED, it did amply demonstrate Dylan Cole’s ability to write character-based humour. Tim Cole’s rapidly unravelling life, bolstered by crumbling corporatism, was a joy to behold, and I even learnt a thing or two… and even got a Certificate of Safetynessness to prove it.

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