Review: Hostage

JULIA LICHNOVA-DINAN: ‘I didn’t write bits of Peep Show. But what I can say is that, pretty damn obviously, Jesse Armstrong was not exaggerating when he said this play was really good.’

Wednesday 10th – Saturday 13th, 11.00 at The ADC Theatre. £5-6.

Directed by Keith Akushie.

The concept: 3 people are held hostage but their kidnapper’s a pussy. Turns out it’s not even that awkward – they’ve got a surprising amount of common ground to go on.

This play about these people trying to make the most of their time stuck in an office. Which is quite easy, it argues, if you've got some beer hidden in computer monitors and one of you is a mad fabulist kleptomaniac – and they do, and he is. What’s more, repeating bizzarreries (that is a real word) come back to haunt our humble protagonists just as they’d thought they had escaped them. Thus, mysterious, missing, fornicating cufflinks resurface; an old appearance on the ‘MILF Channel’ will never be forgotten; and Katy’s weird ex turns out to be the kidnapper himself.

Oh, and as if this wasn’t enough for you viewers, the whole shebang is actually very funny.

What could have been a hit-and-miss account of fending off boredom turns, under Akushie’s nimble pen, into a mini-epic of the office environment. This is essentially a character piece, and fortunately the acting does justice to a script that’s literally overbrimming with potential.

Obstinately cardigan-wearing Mark Fiddaman makes a great James, the unintentionally camp owner of a pair of fists called Mickey and Minnie. Ellie Ross puts on a strong performance as Katy, reasonable woman with quirks – and that’s saying something – and defender of animal rights: “How can making an animal look sexy be cruel?” – well…

Patrick McBride’s multi-faceted portrayal of Michael, ‘a man who stole all the toilet paper in the office for no reason’ and also a total schizo, was particularly interesting: leaping between personas, he successfully dupes the characters – along with, impressively, the audience – making his character the most puzzling and compelling of the play.

Joe Bannister’s Kidnapper, or rather, failure at life, was entertaining as someone who could be mocked (“holding a gun is a bit like wetting yourself…”, etc) but was not convincing as someone who could have actually kidnapped anybody. He would have probably only sustained the highly credulous.

Arguably, I’m not one to judge. I didn’t write bits of Peep Show. But what I can say is that, pretty damn obviously, Jesse Armstrong was not exaggerating when he said this play was really good. You don’t just win the Harry Porter prize for nothing: Akushie’s writing rises way above your Cambridge canon of student endeavours.

The characterisation is excellent: protagonists are introduced, explored, grow and learn throughout the play. Most of the jokes are enjoyably anecdotal, which means they can flow in and out of the play’s fine structure and allow for the development of the storyline. And for a student script they’ve only had about two weeks to put together, not only in terms of acting, but also of production, this workplace saga really impresses.