Job’s a Good’Un is a one-woman show starring its very own writer, Laura Taylor. Directed by theatre company Smol & Ginger’s Rachel Lee, this play was performed Camden People’s Theatre.
This play was clearly written by and, moreover, for someone with a knowledge of drama and its studies. I say this because jokes around this premise perforated its writing, and it was clear from studying the audience that the vast majority of them were, in fact, drama students. For this type of audience, who would focus less on content and more on technique, and excuse mishaps as part of the game, so to speak, I suppose the play did its job; for me, however, there were numerous elements I found to be rather unoriginal or over-concentrated, causing limitations on its versatility and multi-purpose.
I will start with Taylor’s performance. Whilst I commend her unfaltering energy, there were many moments that I felt took away from her characterisation, efficacy and overall engagement. For me, the overture, in which we see Taylor sat on the floor at her laptop, felt very calm and intimate and low-energy (not in a bad way). But, as soon as the action began, she became over-animated and energetic, her posture immediately changing, her actions bigger and precise. This sudden contrast was off-putting, almost as if she was preparing to perform, as opposed to having the momentum of the play finding its own way to the stage. Little moments like these, though very little, indeed, take away from the cogency of a performance. This was met with slip-ups of lines which, in turn, took its tole on Laura’s chosen accent when coming back into action, and small hiccups and mishaps such as dropping the broom, dropping the iPod, etc. Whilst these hiccups are sometimes inevitable, it is the recovery that is key. Drawing attention to these hiccups is sometimes needed, as it was with the incident of the broom. And, for the broom, Taylor’s cheekiness in reposing it against the wall was funny. However, for the iPod, Taylor chose to continue dancing, but only for a matter of seconds. When it is clear that her character, Laura, is no longer listening to music, it draws too much attention to itself to continue to dance. Whilst this would be more understandable if the dance was a crucial, long part of the scene, to only have to dance for two seconds more would render the dance pointless to continue. So, it would have been better to simply leave the iPod and continue to the next scene. Other moments where Taylor would laugh along with the audience members, or smile, coming out of her character, also took away from her performance, as well as an overuse of music and dance.
Whilst Taylor performed scenes with a high energy, elements within them and transitions between them caused the momentum of the play to slow down. This was somewhat to do with the constant water-breaks between scenes, but also to do with the dramatic techniques used. This performance was high on mimesis, and (lengthy) scenes dedicated entirely to miming job-related actions became very tiresome very quickly. For example, Laura explains a job wherein she would perform three tasks, including bar-tending and coat-hanging. The climax of these repeated mimetic actions, each designated its own location on the stage, was very cliché and overused throughout the performance. The focus on tasks and her failure to or success in performing them was definitely the main focal point of the performance, as the synopsis said it would be. However, I felt that the constant rotation around tasks and jobs made it difficult to truly understand Laura’s character, and there hence seemed to be no real character development, only sudden impulses used to simply aid us along onto the next tasks she would perform. I felt either the focus needed to be completely on these jobs, removing Laura as a “character” and having her more as a “representer” of these ordinary job-related tasks, or on Laura’s persona with the jobs as a catalyst for our understanding of it. For example, the idea of one of Laura’s employers talking to her parents was an effective way to allude to Laura’s personality. More moments like these would have made the performance more dynamic. Furthermore, this type of low-energy performance style in comparison with the quick-paced, unoriginal mime was much more successful for this play, for this reason.
I felt also that the effectiveness of these actions was perhaps lost in their introduction. Rather than letting the mimesis speak for itself — as it did in a moment towards the beginning of the performance where Laura puts the newspapers she should be putting under people’s doors, in the bin — Taylor chose to introduce and explain every action before performing it. This, combined with the repetitiveness and unoriginality of the actions, lessened their enjoyability.
To conclude, I would say that this performance had an interesting premise in wanting to construct a semi-autobiographical world full of daily tasks to get by in life financially. However, the concept of having this linked with the underdeveloped character of Laura took away from the efficacy of the performance. The character of Laura remained unnecessary and underdeveloped because it was used as a catalyst for the narrative of the jobs, whereas this order, if wanting to use character, should have been reversed. Whilst there were certainly humorous moments, and effective moments like the employer’s conversation and the newspaper-binning, most actions were too overused and under-creative.
“A piece with an interesting but underdeveloped premise.”