By Sophie Boddington
Anyone who has seen an episode or two of The IT Crowd will remember the monotonous words: ‘Hello IT, have you tried turning it on and off again?’ The TV show has reached a cult following, particularly since its final episode. As a result, when I took to my seat in the Assembly Rooms Theatre last night, I was genuinely intrigued to see how director Max Lindon and his cast and crew would handle some of its more iconic moments.
In his director’s note, Lindon writes that the production would be following the same episodic formula as the show itself, a rather experimental venture which I must admit, at times, I had qualms about. While it stays faithful to the original, transitions are often clunky and it feels as though momentum is sometimes lost. The initial attempts at ‘cold opens’ also suffer because of this. However, the cast are not impeded at all, and indeed go above and beyond to create the same surreal humour and manic energy for which the show is so rightly beloved.
The chemistry between Matt Redmond’s Roy and Alex Marshall’s Moss is electric from the get-go: the two play off each other with ease, and Redmond’s overblown gestures are the perfect counterpoint to Marshall’s awkward posture and word-perfect accent. Marshall should be particularly commended for his comedic timing, as it earns him some of the audience’s longest and loudest laughs. Lizzie Strahan is convincing as the beleaguered Jen – I certainly felt as though her vocal chords were tested! – though occasionally I felt that her hysteria misses the mark. Nevertheless, the trio in combination undoubtedly command the theatre with their antics, and it is truly enjoyable to watch them develop as a group – a T-E-A-M, even, if you’ll pardon my reference.
The ensemble cast are equally hilarious and consistently bring terrific energy. John Duffett as Reynholm is fabulous, effortlessly stealing the scene with one signature bellow. The photo of himself on his desk at the start is another nice nod to the first episode. The rest of the cast supply laughter with aplomb (I was very happy to see a cameo from fan-favourite Richmond towards the end), and while I did notice a few instances where the actors break character as they stifle their own amusement, I don’t think this detracts much from the performance. In fact, it is quite refreshing to see a cast savour their jokes as much as the audience does.
The staging is brilliant – festooned with posters and memorabilia and littered with empty pizza boxes and doughnut bags. Even the lighting mimics a dreary basement office. The use of music adds some memorable moments of humour: anyone who has suffered through the lights turning back on in Klute will appreciate – or shudder at – one particular song choice. The production and technical teams should be proud of the detailed atmosphere they create from the moment the curtain lifts.
It is obvious that a lot of heart went into producing The IT Crowd, and while I can’t deny that the challenging format of following the episodes results in some awkward scene changes to begin with, I think Lindon can be very pleased with the great performances his cast give. If you’re ready to enjoy yourself now that summer has started, I wholeheartedly recommend stopping by the Assembly Rooms to watch Ooook! Theatre Company’s most recent offering.
Photography: Ed Rees Photography