This Way Up is a lovely, funny piece of theatre featuring David Bowie, space-travel, and awkward office comedy. It follows the story of Alex who suffers in a nine-till-five call centre job when all she really wants to do is become an artist. Her friends also have issues maintaining their identity in a world that wants them to be someone else. It all sounds quite clichéd, but it’s brought to life by a wonderfully funny cast and the script never becomes tired or predictable. Instead, This Way Up seems very close to real life, even with the bizarre David Bowie dance-scene at the end.
Antler Theatre have come up with the perfect solution for making a movable Fringe set: just make your entire set out of cardboard boxes. It’s an ingenious idea and makes for some very witty moments in terms of the set up of the scenes. Whether the boxes are being used as spaceships or to emphasise awkward situations, it’s all really cleverly done. It gives the production a make-shift feel, which sits nicely alongside the unaffected nature of the performers.
The cast perfectly capture the essence of awkward office conversations and they portray their characters without pretension. The acting never seems forced, but comes across as effortless and natural. Nasi Voutsas is irresistibly dorky as Alex’s boyfriend, Mark. This had as much to do with his acting as it did with the fact he was wearing a Donkey Kong t-shirt. Daniel Ainsworth and Jessica Stone are also delightfully funny as the eccentric office staff. It seems unfair to mention any of the performers as standout though because the entire cast is brilliant and, as Alex, Daniela Pasquini carries the central role with great skill.
The twinkly, indie-style music accompanying the piece is a nice touch and the lyrics are sometimes unexpectedly funny. Ukulele’s seem to be cropping up a lot at the Fringe this year and I still can’t decide if that’s a good thing. In this production, the ukulele playing just risked pushing it into extreme twee territory. Luckily, even a ukulele can’t spoil the fact that this is a humorous, unpretentious, and thoroughly enjoyable play.
It’s likely to be a marmite piece of theatre. People will either love the silly, sweet comedy or find it too sickly for their liking. I find it impossible not to love a piece of theatre that features a spacesuit made out of cardboard boxes. It’s not the most challenging or inventive piece of theatre you’re likely to see, but it’s difficult not to be charmed by it. It left me with a great big smile on my face.