Laurel’s Whitley Bay
Until Saturday 29 April 2023
Juggling is a two-hander play that takes a humorous and anarchic look at the lengths to which people have to go, to earn a living in this harsh economic climate. Tour-de-force performances and a funny and inventive script keep the laughs coming whilst providing some poignant moments and a satisfying twist in the tale.
Neve, played by Becky Clayburn, is working as office
manager at ‘the world’s worst delivery service’ in Gateshead, whilst also doing
cold calls and being a children’s entertainer. She is slowly sinking under the
combined pressures of trying to make ends meet whilst nursing a gambling habit,
and dealing with a stream of complaining customers whose packages are lost in
transit or in the company’s defective tracking systems.
A science and philosophy graduate, she is well equipped to
analyse and comment on her plight and has a nice line in put downs and palpably
false excuses. This is definitely life writ large and the style leans towards
theatre of the absurd rather than realism. Clayburn plays it to the hilt, wisecracking
her way through a stream of callers, all portrayed in engaging caricature by
Adam Donaldson, ranging from a sweet old lady to an east end hard man. Neve’s
response to the latter’s threats and abuse makes for one of the highlights of
Also played by Donaldson, appearing on a makeshift screen
via Zoom from the golf course at St. Andrew’s, is Neve’s boss, an entitled,
dim-witted rich boy, desperate to locate a package he’s waiting for.
Neve is meanwhile trying to sell funeral plans by cold
call, using an impressive range of voices, and to arrange a date with the
chav-tastic Gary, who is deeply in love with his souped-up Vauxhall Corsa.
As if to bring an extra level of surrealism, Neve then dons
clown make-up and a garish red wig to act as clown to a children’s party via
Zoom, where she makes it clear she is no good at the titular juggling. As she
is still handling calls, chaos ensues and the comedy reaches a new level.
The situation comes to a head when the boss, somewhat improbably,
arrives in the office to find his package. Its contents threaten to derail
Neve’s already shaky existence. There is
no need to reveal the outcome but, suffice to say, this Gateshead lass is made
of sterner stuff.
Juggling works well in Laurel’s friendly
and intimate performance space, the jokes are plentiful and at times
very funny indeed and both performers bring a whole lot of talent and
commitment to the piece. The audience was thoroughly entertained but left with
some food for thought about the very real issue underpinning this story – that
business in Britain today seems to have forgotten an important biblical
message, ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire.’
The play runs until 29 April.
Review: Jonathan Cash
Tickets are available from https://app.lineupnow.com/event/juggling-by-ian-smith