A Tense, Relatable, British Thriller at the Tabard

A positive appraisal for Appraisal from Nick Hennegan

Tim Marriot as Jo. Picture: Charles Flint

March 29, 2024

There’s a kind of genius with this new, award-winning play, written and directed – and here performed – by Fringe stalwart, Tim Marriott. And, full disclosure, not only do I now know all those involved with this production, I saw the WORLD premiere in a small container-case theatre on Princes Street at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a couple of years ago.

Back then, I shockingly realised that I’ve led such a chaotic (bohemian?) life, I’ve NEVER actually had a work appraisal! Although judging from the knowing chuckles and laughs from the rest of the audience, I am very much in a very small minority. And I’m not SO excluded from ‘proper’ life that I couldn’t relate to the corporate jargon and H.R. ‘speak’. After all, I’ve had to do risk assessments for theatre!

But what Marriott has done is create a British Theatre piece that keeps us guessing. It’s not as dark as, say, Mammet’s Oleanna. And there isn’t the variety of situations we might find in Russell’s Educating Rita. But this is its genius, I think. We almost instantly know these characters! They are us. There’s a glorious, Brechtian theatricality to their non-theatricality.

The play sees Jo, the line manager of Nicky conducting her annual work appraisal. No big deal, right? It happens every year to millions worldwide (apart from me..!) So what could go wrong with this routine occurrence? And that’s the clever bit. We’re in a theatre watching a drama but the drama forms from its inherent normality.

Brilliant performances from Angela Bull (Coronation Street, etc.) and writer Tim Marriott (The Brittas Empire, etc.) allow us to relate to the characters like easy friends. In other plays and circumstances, when manager Jo stands uncomfortably close to Nicky, we’d be expecting an inappropriate, dramatic act. But here, Nicky feels uncomfortable and just moves away. Like we all would. No drama! We believe that Nicky is just going through the usual corporate game. And we believe that Jo genuinely cares about his employees.

So, when normality starts to deteriorate, gently and almost accidentally, the cracks appear. Things escalate and we’re horrified for these ‘normal’ people suddenly dealing with life-changing situations.

Angela Bull who recently appeared in Coronation Street plays Nicky
Angela Bull who recently appeared in Coronation Street plays Nicky

And there’s a twist at the end. But is it the end?

True to its Fringe roots the production lasts about an hour, with no interval.

It’s dark, funny and another hit for the tiny Tabard. Go have your Assessment and you’ll see two top (acting) professionals at the top of their (acting) game. I hope my line manager agrees!

Nick Hennegan

Tickets £15 / £12 concession for remainder of March,£18 / £15 concession week commencing 1 April and £20/ £17 concession week commencing 8 April.

You can book all productions online on the Tabard Theatre web site or call the box office on 020 8995 6035 (leave a message if you can't get through and your call will be returned).

Theatre at the Tabard is at 2 Bath Road, Chiswick (W4 1LW).


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