The Receptionist: oh god, another day at the office. But wait… A Fringe review

Julien Arnold, Kristi Hansen, and (front) Davina Stewart in The Receptionist. Photo supplied.

By Liz Nicholls,

The Receptionist (Stage 14, Holy Trinity Anglican Church)

“Good morning, North East Office,” trills Beverly the receptionist in the Adam Bock comedy of that name.  “Can I put you through to voice mail?”

The sing-song — no! operatic! — inflections that Davina Stewart give this banal chorus in The Receptionist are worth the price of admission. And then comes the dexterity with which she transfers an endless series of corporate calls to her boss Mr. Raymond (Reed McColm) and his assistant Lorraine (Kristi Hansen). So she can get back to phone gossiping with her friend Cheryl Lynne. Or listening to Lorraine complain about her ex, and airing her own complaints about her husband’s spending habits. Or making coffee. Or, at moments of high drama, arranging for an office birthday cake. Chocolate. No, really! 

Yes we’re in the mundane landscape of boring anonymous corporate office workplaces, where you’ve got to take your satisfactions where you can, and nothing really happens. No wonder Lorraine flirts with the friendly Mr. Dart (Julien Arnold) who’s arrived from Central Office to meet with Mr. Raymond. No wonder Beverly is happy to chat away about her teacup collection with Mr. Dart and give him parenting advice.

But this is a sneaky spring-loaded comedy, a comedy with a long, inconsequential setup. The way this flat humdrum surface, spooling out convincingly in McColm’s production, turns into something else entirely — something  sinister and malign— will take you by surprise.

I can’t say more; it’s for your own good. But I can tell you, there’s a special chill coming off the world these days. And The Receptionist doesn’t transfer it to voice mail. 

Go, and find out for yourself. 

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