We’ve seen “Mad Men,” or at least heard the clichés about cutthroat ad agency types. Competition for clients, drug and drink fueled late nights, ruthless bidding for commissions regardless of morals. Steve Thompson’s Spin Cycle uses all these ingredients, but the writing style doesn’t match director Stephen Oswald’s delivery. It’s either a farce that was delivered as naturalism, or a naturalistic piece (albeit with a liberal use of humour) that attempts a farcical production. All of the characters are pretty stereotypical with at least some degree of reinforcement from the script, causing the two hours of day-to-day office life to feel repetitive and lacking in depth. There are clear individual storylines, but everything that goes wrong is treated as a crisis that’s conveniently and speedily resolved. The performances are generally quite good in this strong ensemble, but the actors are unable to show much range or development due to a lack of character journey.
Jane (Anneli Page) is the boss, with a good balance of motivation and friendliness. Page easily adopts Jane’s quick wit but also shows some warmth and vulnerability; it’s a shame she is prevented from more than a bit of this. The character has an underlying humanity that is neglected in favour of style, but I chalk this up to a directorial choice. Ash Merat as Piers is the prodigal son with a dangerous edge, also well played. Both Mary Looby and Dan Shelton play three roles each and show excellent contrast between them. They are clearly skilled performers who deserve a shot at a meaty lead, but are excellent character actors as well.
My inkling is that the script is the issue here. It tends towards a circular structure with slow development and a few random sections of rhyming verse that don’t contribute anything other than questions about the reason for their existence. The storyline doesn’t follow a standard dramatic arc, which isn’t necessarily a problem, but the repetition employed quickly becomes tedious. The script could easily be halved and still make its point about the awfulness of the advertising industry, but at least the performances were good enough to get us through two hours of corporate rhetoric and pandering to the Tory party to make a buck.
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