Gloria (Hampstead Theatre)

Posted: July 19, 2017 in Theatre


American playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is on a roll in London this year. His An Octoroon caused quite a stir at the Orange Tree recently and now this caustic satire of work place life does much the same here. The primary setting is the New York offices of a literary magazine, a haven of calamitous disharmony where all the staff go round in separate orbits, almost oblivious of each other until they intersect and feel the friction. It is a tale on disconnection, although not much of the actual tale can be told for fear of spoilers; sealed pages in the programme endorse the message and, indeed, this is a play best enjoyed without too much foreknowledge.

Dean (Colin Morgan), an unsuccessful writer, arrives late with a hangover to be interrogated by office busybody Ani (Ellie Kendrick). Kendra (Kae Alexander) then arrives very very late and snaps at everyone around before departing on the first of her many daily trips to Starbucks. Conscientious head fact checker Lorin (Bo Poraj) raises his voice to complain about the noise from constant rowing and temporary graduate placement Miles (Bayo Gbadamosi) watches on incredulously, but hears little over the music from his headphones. Making up the numbers is the quiet misfit Gloria (Sian Clifford).

Lizzie Clachan’s realistic, detailed set designs help to make the play feel relevant and director Michael Longhurst’s production scores by allowing the performances to shine through. Alexander’s super bitch Kedra is memorably horrible – the workmate from Hell, but the company all pick up on the nuances in Jacobs-Jenkins’ writing, making their characters much more than just the words that they speak. As the play progresses, the writer introduces a secondary target for his satire – the obsession of publishers and, by inference readers, for the inane personal stories of nonentities. This duality of purpose perhaps blunts the play’s cutting edge and prevents it from holding completely together, but, otherwise, this is an entertaining production that has a lot of meaningful things to say.

Performance date: 10 July 2017

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