Follow Suit, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Meredith Jones Russell

As you enter Follow Suit, four people dressed in variously ill-fitting suits stare back at you. When you leave 45 minutes later, you realise you’ve barely glanced away from them. And their gazes have hardly left yours either.

Part of the fun of Follow Suit is your fellow audience, whether it’s the latecomers sardonically ticked off by the cast or the person behind you who can’t hold in the snort of laughter. Ultimately you’re in this together and the cast is completely aware of you throughout – they play to your reactions, and ultimately to your conscience.

The production, a slick, dark comedy of the absurd, satirises the dry routine and empty pointlessness of office life. The four main cast members barely utter a word from start to finish, but every movement is clean, clear and vital to the narrative.

Not that there is much of a narrative, really. With a physical, clowning approach, the performers deftly skewer the monotony and soullessness of a City job and capitalism in general using repeated movements and words which occasionally build to almost transcendent sequences set to classical music.

 Clever use of lighting shows how hard they are working and hints at the burnout such workers inevitably experience, with the four moaning and gurning when their light goes out until they are “switched on” again.

There is no obvious story line linking all this apart from the repeated appearances of a mysterious man lugging large packages towards a filing cabinet, apparently unnoticed by the people on stage.

The final movement, which goes some way towards explaining this, is less subtle than the obscure pantomime that goes before it, but given the length of the show it provides just the right bite and makes a piece which might otherwise feel directionless deliver a solid and profoundly uncomfortable punch.

Follow Suit runs through 11 March.

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