• Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Review: I Hate It Here

ByAlexa Sambrook

Mar 26, 2023
Image from performance of I Hate it Here(c) Alex Brenner

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“How are we doing guys?” an overly excited woman in a cheap grey business suit greets me at the door of the Red Lecture Theatre in Summerhall. I’m slightly confused and become even more so when she hands me a number. I take my seat at the end of the row and notice a couple of pens as well as a bingo square and a contract have been laid out in front of me, as they have for everyone else watching the show. I thought this was theatre, not a night out with my gran’s friends.

Shelley, our supervisor (emphasis on super), who had met me at the door, gets the crowd going and thanks us for signing up for a shift. She then tells us she will be drawing the numbers of the lucky ones who get to work today. I’m suddenly instilled with fear, but luckily my number is not one of the three drawn. The three chosen are youngish but look completely bemused. They are told to get their uniforms on, to which one of the participants asks “what, you’re not serious are you?” Nonetheless, they disappear behind the curtain.

They return in uniforms that fit them too well, and it soon becomes apparent that they were stooges. Their respective characters are as different by profession as they are by background. Plang is an elderly carer who loves to sing with her patients, Tara is a single parent and nurse who is talented at answering questions on the Weakest Link, and Spud is a fast-food restaurant worker who cannot stop speaking about how fit his friend Claire is. These characters are heart-warming and hilarious; they’re also all on zero-hour contracts.

The hour of performance effortlessly flits between comedy and darkness, and three very different stories of life on zero-hour contracts unfold. Plang is unable to bond with those she’s caring for as the company keeps making her change patients, Tara cannot find childcare whilst she’s doing her shift as they’re too short notice, and Spud’s manager is a bully. Each of the performances are incredibly strong. Spud and Tara are both played by actors of the opposite gender to the role, which gives them a humorous edge, but also speaks to the persuasiveness of the performance. The characters often speak directly to members of the audience — writing them into the play as patients on the ward or restaurant customers — often causing much hilarity. Scenes dissolve into fantasy with mock game shows, musical numbers, and interpretative dance, inventively conveying the anguish and optimism of the characters, as well as being very entertaining.

All the while, the great big red timer on the wall behind them counts down until the end of their shift. It’s a bold symbol, but the play’s message is clear; zero-hour contracts are abominable, and we must get rid of them.

Yet, when the timer finally runs out, instead of taking bows, Shelley, our Supervisor (emphasis on super) — who we have gone from loving to fearing — pushes us out of the theatre. There isn’t any time to think, never mind applaud the cast for the fantastic production we have just witnessed.

There’s no time to be taking bows in this economy.

Image by Alex Brenner provided via press release

By Alexa Sambrook

Alexa Sambrook is a fourth year French and German student and the secretary of The Student. After joining The Student at the start of Semester 2 of her first year, she wrote for the Features and TV and Film section. She was made TV and Film editor in May 2020 and held the position for 14 months before her year abroad. She is passionate about building community in the newspaper.