Review: Christmas Office Party****

At Hull Truck Theatre

The perfect Christmas show? While other festive theatrical offerings feature happy families, perfectly resolved stories, all loose ends tied up, this Godber show, updated from its first outing in the early Nineties, brings the audience precisely none of those elements.

Instead, it is a season of bad will, of double crossing and of nefarious types stabbing people in the back. It's not so much a case of same rubbish, different day as same rubbish, plus a bit more rubbish, plus a load of alcohol, different day.

This somewhat nihilistic view of the festive season might surprise some – there were far fewer laughs in the auditorium on Tuesday night than there normally is for a Godber production – but the play, which has had recent rewrites by Godber, reflects that the playwright is looking at the world through somewhat jaded eyes at the minute.

Set in a small Leeds office – all bare brick walls and laminate floor, it doesn't actually matter where the action plays out. This is one of Godber's less parochial pieces. His attack isn't against Leeds or Hull, but against a mindset. Into the office comes Jo, the new man, or, as it transpires, the new woman, up from London here to sort out the office and bring in a big contract.

The first 20 minutes of the play you could almost feel the confusion in the room – where were the big laughs? Where was the comedic opening? This was Godber's serious side. Jim Kitson, as Bob, is the office lout who gets on every last nerve of the office pushover Andy, played by Leigh Symonds.

There is a nastiness here – something we're not used to seeing from the playwright. The inevitable Christmas party takes over the climax of the first act and the opening of the second and we are treated to the most interesting part of the party – the room where everyone goes to escape the melee.

Here the lives of the office workers unravel, Jim Kitson as Bob strikes a particularly tragic figure as his fancy dress make up slowly sweats away from his face, revealing more than a hint of the tragic clown.

Pippa Fulton appears to be more of a human cartoon than ever and William Ilkley as the boss of the firm is sleazy to an awful degree.

Despite putting all of this unlikable mess on stage, there is much to like here. Although I don't think this tragic view on life is anything more than a phase for the writer.

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