“The people you work with are just people you were thrown together with. Y’know, you don’t know them, it wasn’t your choice. And yet you spend more time with them than you do your friends or your family – but probably all you’ve got in common is the fact that you walk round on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day.”
Tim Canterbury, The Office
And so it goes for Beth and Jools. They’ve worked together as legal secretaries for years, putting up with Chantelle and Linda’s gossiping, seeing colleagues come and go in quick succession, and trying to find time to pursue their passions. Beth is the archetypal ‘bubbly’ office personality; she has an inspirational quote for every occasion and will do her best to find a way of avoiding work if she can, preferring a natter over calculating the VAT – but beneath all the jokes and the chat she’s hiding a dark truth. Jools is far less ready to settle for decades of the same old routine, however, so she decides to apply for a paralegal post in the hope of opening up a more fulfilling career – a passionate vegan, she spends most of her free time engaging in activism and trying to help make the world a better place. The pair are like chalk and cheese, but they’ve managed to make things work in the office so far…
Written by Isabelle Stokes, Sixty-Seven is the latest production from Tiny Theatre Company, the title referring to the mythical pension pot age (consistently on the rise) that Beth and Jools realise is their common destination in life. A lot is said about how irresponsible and incapable millennials are in comparison with previous generations, suggesting that if they simply gave up their fancy coffees and Netflix accounts they’d easily be able to afford to buy their own house – conveniently forgetting things like the introduction of tuition fees, over a decade of Tory-led austerity, and the tiny problem of impending climate doom… This all takes a financial and mental toll, efficiently trapping people into working dead-end jobs and having to keep renting somewhere to live; it’s little wonder that we splurge on the odd nice thing here and there.
Stokes’ script captures this idea in a largely more light-hearted way, with Beth and Jools navigating the aspirational pressure of the 21st century by making time to pursue their passions in their spare time – and Beth being a budding stand-up comedian provides extra comic relief when she tries out her set on the audience. Not only is this a realistic depiction of the choices faced by millennials (& younger generations), but it’s actually quite inspirational to see a slightly less radical course of action being portrayed. I recently went to a gig where a fortysomething multi-millionaire encouraged everyone who hated their job to quit and do something they love instead – tone deaf in the current cost-of-living crisis, and far too black & white at the best of times. It’s little wonder there’s such an insistence that we “live our dreams”, and that if you don’t have your “dream job”, or “dream house”, or “dream partner” you’re not doing things right.
The play is in great hands with Olivia Roebuck and Alex Brailsford at the helm, superbly switching between dialogue and directly addressing the audience; having Beth and Jools talk to “the new girl” at various points throughout is great for exposition, and a good way for the characters to share their thoughts and feelings – and it’s just more creative and naturalistic than having them go into monologues or randomly talking to the audience for no good reason. The pair have excellent comic timing, though are just as adept at taking on the more serious scenes, as Beth confides in the audience and Jools puts her trust in Beth. A brilliant all-round production.
My verdict? A superb insight into the aspirational pressure of the 21st century – Olivia Roebuck and Alex Brailsford have excellent comic timing.
Sixty-Seven ran at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre from 7 – 11 June 2022.