We’ve all been there! That sense of recognition permeates the room during Tim Marriott’s latest play Appraisal. The giggles, other intermittent sounds, and nodding heads are not uniformly expressed but occur when a specific moment in the dialogue clearly resonates with someone.
Highly focussed and amusingly serious
The story weaves an intriguing line of progression through the questions, criticisms and observations that make up Nicky’s annual review. Conducting the event is Jo, a senior manager in the company where she is a head of department. It soon emerges that their agendas are not the same. Nicky’s simple desire to carry on in the job she currently has does not sit well with what turn out to be Jo’s restructuring ambitions. It all starts out fairly amicably but soon deteriorates as Jo tries to worm his way to the heart of his case. It becomes increasingly uncomfortable and unpleasant as he applies more and more pressure and chooses to raise matters that are put-downs of Angela. He’s done his homework, but so has she and while he has the ammunition for attack his defences are weaker and he has only shaky plans for the counterattack. Thus it becomes a battlefield of power tactics and the art of manipulation, brimming with subtext and subterfuge.
Decorated actor, director and producer, Nicholas Collett plays the rather sexist and behind-the-times boss. He delivers lines with subtle undertones and impeccable timing including menacing pauses. The highly esteemed Angela Bull, recent star of ITV's Honour, opposite Keeley Hawes, starts in a calmly decorous and tolerant manner, seemingly listening sympathetically as she gradually reveals her inner strengths until she starts to give as good as she gets. Both brim with subtext and subterfuge.
Appraisal reflects a hierarchical dynamic from decades ago yet one which we know still persists beneath many a glass ceiling. It’s a joy to see it exposed in this highly focussed and amusingly serious work with the added bonus of being able to speculate as to how it wil all end and whether there will be a twist.