Saxon Court (Southwark Playhouse) – review by Carole Woddis


Christmas 2011.  In the City.  An office party is under way.  The lewd, the gross and the ugly all on view, tipsy staff, humiliating games.  Haven’t we seen this before a few times?

Saxon Court is writer Daniel Andersen’s professional debut.  An `emerging writer’, Saxon Court shows he’s not afraid to provoke and wander into places you’d rather he didn’t.  That’s to say, the slightly unspeakable, jokes at the expense of minorities.

Wholly political incorrect.

Of course, there’s a point to it.  Andersen is keen to show the underbelly of our financial market, the recession biting where headlines don’t venture – a sleazy, small time financial recruitment agency on the point of going under.

Andersen supplies a rogues’ gallery of cockney and Estuary sounding underlings ruled with a rod of iron determination by Donna (Debra Baker) that could have come straight out of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist.  Joey, the fast-talking, wide-boy with his brain in his crotch; tentative new boy Noel, receptionist Tash, just returning after a difficult op – breast enhancement.  And Nat, surly and skidding into the loo either to re-assemble herself or throwing up.  In fact, the loo takes centre stage for much of the first half.  Something spectacular has taken place inside it; the stench is spreading into every crevice of the office and the cleaner hasn’t turned up.

And so it goes.  We get a brief bottom flash from one of the Occupy protestors camped in St Paul’s who appears in a horse’s head and a game of forfeit which ends, predictably in tears, violence, revelation and less predictably, a sacking.

Although Andersen overdoes the misanthropy and low life – we get our noses rubbed in it just a bit too often – his dialogue definitely appeals judging by the guffaws, intakes of breath and squeals of recognition.  Can office banter these days really be this rancidly sexist and appearance obsessed?

Still director Melanie Spencer squeezes every ounce of effluence from the script and has assembled a company of marvellously larger-than-life accomplices – notably John Pickard’s Joey, Alice Franklin’s upholstered Tash, Adam (The Hobbit) Brown as a hapless delivery man/driver and Sophie Ellerby’s scary Nat whose departing shots at Donna reveal an alley-cat pragmatism.

A bit of a cross between Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money and Nick Payne’s The Same Deep Water as Me (see Londongrip review, Aug 2013) with a Mike Leigh view of life, Saxon Court makes hilarious if charmless viewing as a suitably useful metaphor for our venal times.

Saxon Court is at Southwark Playhouse to Dec 13, 2014

© Carole Woddis  Nov, 2014.