Basement’s Work Do is THE office Christmas party not to be missed

It’s Christmas for the Go Away travel agency. Rough tinsel lines the bulky desktop computers in the office, and a stack of presents are concealed underneath a Christmas tree with a Princess Diana star. Over the course of 90 minutes, we get to know a lot about the people that inhabit this office. And I mean, a LOT.

Written by Alice Snedden and Rose Matafeo, Work Do is the 10th instalment of the Basement Theatre’s annual festive production. And despite all the pre-show press by the duo, there’s no way I was prepared for what I watched. It’s entirely mad (in a good way) and utterly hilarious.

Snedden and Matafeo have taken us back to Go Away Travel’s 1997 Christmas Party. With the business is on the verge of financial ruin, Linda Harwood (Jodie Rimmer), Go Away Travel’s inept boss, has decided to lighten the blow of redundancy with copious amounts of alcohol and the chance to get wasted. What starts out as a perfectly pleasant evening collapses into chaos, culminating in a final act that is pure unadulterated madness.

With a cast of just four (plus a rotating guest star), it would usually be easy to nit-pick and notice weaknesses. But everyone is exceptional, especially considering three have to balance dual roles. Jodie Rimmer is totally believable as the self-obsessed, borderline alcoholic boss, and both Byron Coll and Brynley Stent have scene-stealing moments as employees Gary and Karen. But it’s Kura Forrester who is the true stand-out, with a monologue in the second act causing the cast to stifle their own laughter as the audience struggle to merely stay in their seats. And while having a guest actor each night could detract from the main show, the radio DJ character is well suited to someone who won’t have rehearsed and gives room to improvise where capable. On Saturday night, Madeleine Sami proved hilarious in the role. It’s a slightly unnecessary character, but in keeping with the annual tradition of having a mystery guest, it’s entirely adequate. It will be interesting to see how a non-comedian tackles the role, and I wonder if it may cause only to interfere with the otherwise constant barrage of jokes.

By being set in the 90s, Snedden and Matafeo have a wealth of references at their disposal, and these are used cleverly throughout. From the early gags referencing Diana, through to a series of jokes at the expense of a certain Shortland Street actor. The set is also beautifully realised, utilising the most of the Basement’s limited space to convincingly portray a dingy office. Director Leon Wadham has made excellent use of this, making any seat in the theatre a prime view.

Overall, the 10th annual Christmas show continues Basement Theatre’s excellent tradition of end of year comedies. Work Do is pure joy, and will surely get you in into the festive spirit (though it might be more Bad Santa than Love Actually). So grab your best Christmas jumper and get on down to Basement for some silly season laughs.

Work Do runs until December 21 at the Basement Theatre.

Reviewed by Stewart Sowman-Lund