The-Lunch-Hour-300A spritely script and punchy performances made for an engaging opening night for Chris Aronsten's The Lunch Hour.

This funny play centres on the strained relationship between a group of co-workers in a ticketing agency's call centre and their boss Martin, a hapless victim of middle management. In the first act we see the staff doing everything they can to frustrate Martin by avoiding actually answering calls while procrastinating about their covert collective effort at writing a play lampooning their long-suffering boss for an upcoming competition. In the second act, they read the play he has secretly written about them, which has won him said competition.
Aronsten's plot is funny, unpredictable and very engaging, and skips rather lightly over some more serious themes. It is only in the second act that the characters really come to light, albeit through Martin's viewpoint. Nonetheless, there are hints of these deeper insights into these characters in the first act, and it is surprising to find that Martin has treated his obnoxious staff with such pathos in his play.
Unfortunately, The Lunch Hour lost me at the end. Although it didn't follow a traditional storytelling convention for the most part, the plot arc made sense until near the end, where we inexplicably found ourselves in a mini-musical. I really wanted some kind of epiphany, even a comical one would have sufficed, but I'm not certain I understood the ending. Of course, I may have been distracted; the musical number in question was suitably funny, but despite some stellar performances in the rest of the play, few in the cast managed to project with sufficient volume in song to fill the auditorium, and the whole piece fell a little flat.
A noteworthy exception was Shaun Rennie, who also gave a standout performance in the role of Chris. He struck that difficult balance between humour and understated pathos that most actors struggle to achieve. Briallen Clarke demonstrated similar skill portraying Felicity, whom Aronsten permitted a great deal more pathos, which was strikingly evoked and balanced with impeccable comic timing.
The Lunch Hour may not be groundbreaking (I've seen one too many plays about writing plays or producing theatre) but it does have its own special quirks, and I think the oddities of its style are enough to endear it to those of us who find the idea of plays about theatre somewhat naff. The characters are all very engaging, and the dialogue is every bit as sharp as Much Ado About Nothing. Don't think about it too much, and you'll have a ball.

Siren Theatre Company presents
The Lunch Hour
By Chris Aronsten

Dates: 12 September - 7 October 2012, Tuesday - Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm
Venue: Darlinghurst Theatre, 9 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point

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