Finally, a show where I take the starring role. That’s right – temping is an interactive show for one, where you, the audience member, become the office temp at an Illinois firm whilst the long-term employee, Sarah Jane, is in Hawaii for holidays. Created by narrative technologists Wolf 359, this innovative show makes office admin oddly exciting.
Immediately you are immersed into the narrative as Diego, one of the office managers (played by one of the show’s creators), guides you into a humdrum, noughties style office steeped with windows desktop, post-it notes, shredder and printer. It is scarily believable. You could spend the whole hour alone just exploring the cabinets and cupboards, revelling in the designer’s thorough attention to detail. The previous employee’s enduring presence was eerily felt through her left-behind stationary and personal photos on the pinboard. It was particularly unnerving to discover, halfway through, her trainers under the desk. Credit is due to the set design – it was highly effective in facilitating total immersion into this world.
Over the course of the hour, you carry out a variety of office tasks. As the company you are temping for specialises in retirement plans, you spend time on Excel depressingly editing a client’s status to deceased and calculating people’s life expectancies. Sarah Jane’s voice notes and other employee’s voicemails and emails guide you through these tasks. There are many narratives at play during the hour but Sarah’s reasons for departure become a central one. The themes of the show were powerfully but subtly hinted at throughout, mainly hitting on the corporate alienation of humans and modern work (or over-work) culture.
While there is a sense that you are being swayed in the direction of certain activities and plot lines, in the end, it is basically up to the individual player to decide the course of what they do in the hour. If you want to send raunchy emails to your colleague, feel free. The behind-the-scenes area resembled a spy’s control centre, kitted out with technology and computers so that the show’s team can watch and react to your actions throughout the hour. It is a daunting prospect taking on this dual role of both audience and performer. For those who prefer to be a silent observer rather than being observed, this one is not for you. I, so naturally sanctimonious, was a highly obedient office temp. Apart from taking one of Sarah’s chocolates from her drawer, I was pretty compliant. As a result, the show was probably less exciting for me than it might be for the daredevils amongst you.
All the same, you are ensured an engaging experience, partly because the production of the show is so stimulating. The printer, for instance, has a life of its own, excreting documents throughout which added layers to the show’s narratives and themes. Lighting and sound was also used highly effectively. There were moments when all of these production elements came together producing a unique, sensory experience. A few instances of this made me feel very unsettled and it is all the more intense as you are experiencing it alone. This show is definitely not for the faint of heart.
This interactive genre is pushing the boundaries of theatre into an unrecognisable realm. Embracing this cutting-edge technology allows for a whole host of new, exciting creatives to experiment with live performance as a medium. Some might lament the passing of more traditional theatrical formats which provided an escape hatch from a world of increasing digitalisation. But I think that this show is proof that technology does not compromise theatrical creativity and it can actually heighten the immersive feel of live theatre. As for my own performance, five stars. I think I made an excellent office temp. Immersive, innovative, thought-provoking – temping is live performance as you have never experienced it before.
Recommended Drink: A bottle of red wine for one. It’s been a long day at the office.
Catch temping until the 18th March. Tickets are available through the Adelaide Fringe Box Office.