Monday, 10 May 2010

Gloudon’s Appropriate Behaviour: A refreshing, spot-on look at the J’can workplace

WORKING PEOPLE: Althea Gordon-Clennon, Nicosia Shakes and Kashka Hemans; (above) Marguerite Newland and Maurice Bryan in Appropriate Behaviour.

Appropriate Behaviour (University Players Productions)

Director: Brian Heap

Starring: Nadean Rawlins, Maurice Bryan, Marguerite Newland and Christopher McFarlane

Venue: Philip Sherlock Centre, UWI Mona

Tyrone’s Verdict: B+

You know you are not working in the most organized, productive environment when superiors regularly refer to employees as “hooligans” and “savages.” More to the point, experts argue that a range of personalities and characters on the job makes for a successful workplace. But, by Jove, someone has to draw the line somewhere to keep the place from descending into a zone of everlasting conflict and anarchy. In Appropriate Behaviour, a winning comedy-drama by prolific playwright Barbara Gloudon that has been dusted off by the University Players for a new revival, this truth has never been more lucid and valid.

Chock-full of humour and wit, Appropriate Behaviour, which opened at the Philip Sherlock Centre on Thursday, takes us inside a local company, where we are introduced to two aging ancillary workers (Nadean Rawlins and Melward Morris); uncooperative staff members (Nicosia Shakes, Kashka Hemans, Althea Gordon-Clennon and Chris McFarlane); a strong-willed office manager (Marguerite Newland); the company busybody (Rishille Pelicie) and a flamboyant “man secretary” (Maurice Bryan), whose sexuality is frequently up for discussion.

To foster “appropriate behaviour” among his habitually aggressive workers, the boss (an unseen Mr. Biggs) hires two snooty personal development pros (Jean-Paul Menou and Marsha-Ann Hay) to put new measures in place for the advancement of the company and help improve inter-personal relations on the job. Good luck with that.

Working with a well-informed script from Gloudon and a big ensemble cast, director Brian Heap fashions a clear-eyed look at the complex, modern-day workplace and what it often requires for employees to keep “di likkle work” – and maintain their sanity in a difficult work environment when there are piles of bills to pay and hungry mouths at home to feed.

Characters evolve realistically, though some are sketched in more detail than others. McFarlane’s Horace, in particular, is cleverly portrayed and commands attention as the office loudmouth and bully with a gambling addiction. Rawlins, too, is amazing in her transformation as the hardworking Miss Katy, but Pelicie comes very close to stealing the show with her utterly fascinating turn as the bespectacled Miss Patience. Bryan and Newland also deliver solid work here.

In exploring the often complex nature of the workplace, Appropriate Behaviour occasionally teeters into contrivance, especially as the play tries to establish its footing in early scenes. Still, the frequent flashes of clarity and intelligence override the more forced moments, and the superb lead performances add to the story’s power and truthfulness.

Authentically pitched and refreshing, Appropriate Behaviour ultimately gets it right.

(Get lots more photo highlights over at TALLAWAH JAMAICA.)

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