Home » London Theatre Reviews » Asking For a Raise at The Space, Isle of Dogs, London | Review

Asking For a Raise at The Space, Isle of Dogs, London | Review

Asking For a Raise - Credit LivLeopard Photography
Asking For a Raise – Credit LivLeopard Photography

It’s entertainment, first and foremost, and neither cast nor creatives in Asking For A Raise are in any way responsible for any actual consequences, good or bad, that may arise if anyone attempts any of the various pathways and techniques discussed in the show with a view to, well, asking for a raise. Then again, with an opening gambit like that, perhaps I am guilty of the sort of corporate-speak and policy-heavy workplace that this production does well to make light of.

It’s not the first show in an office setting – there was the Royal Court play Enron, liked in the West End, loathed on Broadway, and then the Sixties musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Here, it takes an entire show to seal the deal – in part due to British reticence, and in part due to an almost painstaking attempt at dramatizing almost every aspect of the process, including waiting around in corridors for a manager to be back at their desk, before resorting to “wander the departments of the organisation you work for”, which, in a large firm, could take some time. Even then, the deal isn’t actually sealed: there are yet more bureaucratic hurdles to be overcome, and various layers of management, including the managing director, need to sign off on whatever was agreed.

I’ve made it all sound rather dull, but there is much to enjoy, even if some punchlines land better than others. A few characters are named in the dialogue (five performers play multiple parts between them) but not in the programme, so I shall keep faith with the latter. But there is humour to be found even in the so-called basics – it is indeed impossible to negotiate with one’s boss if one’s boss is not in for whatever reason. The script does need some tightening, however: the need to have a physical face-to-face meeting is rather outdated in the digital era. I’m not advocating pay negotiations by WhatsApp, but one could begin by emailing the appropriate manager to set a time and date to meet, thus negating all that wandering around.

The rather outmoded approach, however, is part of the show’s comedy appeal. A sensible methodology would make good theatre (just about), but not as good as the cringeworthy moments of gold provided in this scenic route. A variety of styles helped break up what would otherwise have been a relatively monotonous play: a gameshow format takes the character who wants a pay rise through the sort of questions that might be asked in the negotiation, and a late scene sees both sides of the negotiating table break into song.

One of the pieces of advice out there regarding the negotiation of a pay increase successfully is to focus on the workplace and not any personal circumstances or external factors (such as family expenses or a general downturn in the economy). That seems to be adhered to here, though I wonder the production would be better, dramatically speaking, if there was more about these characters and what they get up to outside of work. In other words, character development could have been stronger. Still, it’s a brisk and amusing piece of theatre.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

You work hard. You are devoted to your company and loyal to your line manager. Now it’s time for you to approach him and ask for a raise. Good luck.

Asking For a Raise is a new verbose cyclical comedy, created and directed by Franciska Éry (Reboot: Shorts, The Bunker) and Hugo Aguirre (The Woman Who Gave Birth To A Goat, Camden People’s Theatre) with original music by Liam Murphy. Follow the journey of a young employee who gathers all strength and bravery to knock on her boss’ door and ask for a raise.

With a strong and energetic ensemble, absurdist humour and unique look and sound, this will be an office-gone-wrong evening of alternative probability, cautious hypotheticals and potential fishbones.

A new, devised play by Hugo Aguirre and Franciska Éry
The Space, Isle of Dogs, London
3rd – 7th July 2018 at 7:30
Length: 1 hour
Age Guidance: 12+


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