This year is the Menier Chocolate Factory’s tenth anniversary, and to celebrate, the play which made their name is back in a new production. Fully Committed follows Sam (Kevin Bishop), an out of work actor, always awaiting a call from his agent, and instead continually besieged with calls from eccentric clients of the gourmet restaurant that he answers the phones for. And, yes, that was ‘phones’ plural, as he jumps between the staff buzzer, the main phone, his personal phone, and the ominously red telephone which means the chef is calling.
It is a one man show with over forty characters, as Kevin Bishop takes on the variety of clientele desperate to secure a table: the smooth American chef, Jerry, the eccentric French manager, Jean-Claude, and Gourmet magazine who have been waiting for the photo shoot since 8:30am.
It is certainly a very impressive performance, with Bishop jumping between every conceivable impression complete with specific body language and facial expressions suitable to each.
A slightly more serious undertone can be detected when Sam’s agent tells him that all he needs to prepare for his audition is a “strong sense of personal entitlement”. It is this entitlement which almost every other character seems to have mastery of, and actually comes across as rather unfavourable. Perhaps, the only way to succeed in acting, as in catering, is this vulgar entitlement that characterises the grasping people Sam must deal with day in, day out.
The play is at moments a little grating and I left relatively dispassionately, rather indifferent to Sam’s plight of never-ending phone calls. Not much is said over the course of the production and it is unlikely to stay with the audience member enduringly.
But ultimately it is a funny play. It can be a play for anyone who has had to answer phones repeatedly, but particularly for anyone who has ever struggled through the acting business. Sam’s agent, for example, who is permanently and mysteriously in a meeting, and a fellow actor friend who calls regularly to keep Sam updated on his many call-backs and successes, must both seem very familiar to those in the business.
Even if only for the evening, this play is guaranteed to have its audience laughing.
‘Fully Committed’ is running until the 15th November at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London