Crunch! was a gentle yet hard hitting comedy set in an office, where three very different characters tried to get on with furthering their careers, but fell into the trap of not sharing what they really felt or thought. This created the right amount of tension, but also added several layers of comedy as both a dead iguana and a new girl with an interesting past integrated themselves into the action that unfolded. Based on a true event, we get a glimpse into what really can go on sometimes in an office associated with a big firm.
Crunch! had something special
Despite the energy of the actors dropping on the odd occasion throughout the play, it did not distract from the insightful writing and direction of all three cast members by Sarah Archer. Having had experience in a corporate environment herself, it was interesting seeing how her own experiences translated to stage. We felt as if we were a fly on the wall as every single crossed wire, innuendo and assumption came to the fore as Crunch! progressed and felt very much part of the whole experience.
Archer's writing and stage setting was simple, with office tables and IT equipment for the most part, but a simple switch of the lighting and props (such as a wireless microphone and wine glasses) indicated settings outside the office space, like a karaoke bar and the local pub. This in itself kept the action swiftly moving without losing track of the plot and the comedic timing from all three members of cast as they added to the chaos that ensued.
Archer, as well as writing and directing this play, took on the role of Paula - a long-suffering HR advisor who really believed in communicating with everyone to make sure they worked together as a team. She portrayed her with such compassion and honesty that I saw a little nod to Victoria Wood on occasion with some of her manerisms and quick wit.
Emma Hopkins brought drama to the proceedings with new ambitious girl Jackie. In contrast to Archer, she sensitively explored the idea of saying nothing about how she really felt about certain circumstances in life (like a complicated relationship with her father) and work. Whilst the main point of Crunch! is about the importance of communication, I would also suggest that another layer is explored through Hopkin's performance as to how mental health can be affected when communication doesn't happen. How Jackie contributes to that is to be discovered when seeing this play.
Finally, Philip J Willett channeled his inner Arthur Lowe as he played HR Manager Arthur (no relation), who tried to progress with little disruption as possible and was bewildered at how the world changed around him. He played Arthur with a child-like innocence at times, yet at the same time had a brash pomposity that was reminiscent of Captain Mainwaring on a downplayed scale. He likewise had his own secrets to hide, which again can only by grabbing a ticket.
Crunch! had something special that had a really strong plot, great elements of reality, honesty, comedy and a cast that clearly cared about telling the story in a way that was accessible and extremely relatable. Catch it whilst you can.