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The CO-OP at the Bread & Roses Theatre | Review

Make It BeautifulThe co-operative in The CO-OP is an actors’ agency, started by Jimmy (Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson) and Tom, an unseen character who has left the organisation having secured a role on BBC Television’s Silent Witness and hasn’t looked back since. Jimmy and Catherine (Cara Steele) busy themselves by re-enacting scenes from well-known motion pictures (sometimes with questionable accents) as there isn’t enough work to do during the day.

Business in the acting trade has slowed down so much one would be forgiven there was a global pandemic going on. Or perhaps, just perhaps, it was always thus: the actors in the co-operative effectively represent one another, such that, either tragically or comically, the ‘agents’ seldom secure auditions for their clients, and simultaneously as actors, the very same people feel that their agents aren’t working as hard as they could be on their behalf.

Still, it has been mutually decided that their collective needs to expand, so they’re seeing Charlie (Felix Grainger) for an audition/interview mashup, though quite how ‘co-operative’ the co-operative really is comes to light when Jimmy single-handedly suddenly decides to hire Charlie on the spot, without any consultation. As the show progresses, a comprehensive picture is formed as to how disorganised things really are, and how stark the difference has become between ‘reality’ and ‘pretend’.

Elements of pragmatism from Charlie are therefore struck down by the other two. As the show flits backwards and forwards, telling a full story but not in chronological order, it takes a while to fully grasp what precisely is going on. Time-hopping may make some shows unnecessarily complicated, but it works here, keeping the audience intrigued until the pieces of the puzzle gradually come together.

I’m not sure the inclusion of chart music tunes added much to the proceedings, aside from displaying yet more dynamism and energy. The script has been brought up to date – a few knowing quips about recent news items made the production topical for the discerning audience, and the play has much to say about how fiercely competitive the entertainment industry is. Yes, it’s drama about drama, but in an era of social distancing, the interaction and camaraderie between the three characters only highlights all the more the benefits of collaboration.

Although the picture painted of the creative industries is rather bleak, the production is effectively a tribute to the acting profession. Despite the challenges to be continually overcome, this trio remain committed to their cause. For the most part, it’s a hoot, and I am quite sure many elements of the story will be very relatable to the company’s fellow actors out there. Some of the punchlines, truth be told, are best appreciated by those already familiar with the acting profession. It is, nonetheless, an insightful, witty and briskly paced production that maintains the audience’s interest from beginning to end.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Welcome to The CO-OP. The dysfunctional acting agency that you’ll never want to leave.
After Jimmy and Caza lose their best friend at the agency, it all seems to be over. But can exciting and talented Charlie be the answer to their woes? Or will the secrets beneath The CO-OP be revealed? Over the course of an hour, experience the mad traditions and games played within The CO-OP as the three friends try to keep their dreams alive.
This play is a love letter to theatre and film, brought to life by three nobodies.

The CO-OP
Written by Gabriel Fogarty-Graveson & Felix Grainger – devised by the company
27th – 29th Oct at 7pm and 8:45pm
https://www.breadandrosestheatre.co.uk/

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