This review was originally written for EdFringeReview.com
Considering the plethora of sketch shows to be found at the Fringe, it takes true originality for one to stand out. With Present and Correct: Now Recruiting, co-directors Simon Lewis and Sam Went have created a show that contains glimpses of such quality, aided by a set of commendable performances but let down by some inconsistent writing.
Refreshingly, this is a sketch show with a semblance of a plot. Set in the cut-throat corporate world of tax-dodging and off-shore accounts, every skit is somehow linked to the merciless Penderson Brothers Office Supplies company, headed by morally bankrupt CEO Jeremy Penderson (Lewis Dunn). Timid graduate employee Natalie (Lucy Walters), insufferably enthusiastic lift attendant ‘Captain’ Bond (Harry Morgan), Marxist protestor Whiskers the Cat (a puppet voiced by Walters again) and an irritatingly breezy careers administrator (Meg Rocky) all feature, as Penderson Bros. struggles with HMRC over some suspicious financial behaviour.
The undoubted stars of the show are Dunn and Walters. Dunn brings a delectable reptilian menace to the role of Penderson. His notable physicality and powerful voice (watch out for his exceptional evil laugh) allow expression of his natural comedic nous; his performance is genuinely memorable. Walters displays remarkable versatility, providing humour in both her roles. As nervous and naïve Natalie, her timorous personality is both appropriate and amusing. As the voice of Whiskers the Cat she combines adorability with sophisticated communist theory, somehow managing to command an enormous stage presence with a four inch high puppet.
Morgan also deserves a mention, not least for his unbounded enthusiasm and commendable vivacity. His thoroughly enjoyable portrayal of John, the creator of a sinister children’s TV program whose ulterior motives slowly become clear, is a definite highlight. In contrast, his ceaseless verbosity as lift attendant Captain Bond is, if at first moderately funny, inevitably tiresome due to its repetitiveness. Present and Correct: Now Recruiting is at its strongest when either Dunn or Watson are on stage, and it is here that the show feels most polished.
These laudably consistent performances are in sharp contrast with some regrettably inconsistent writing; there is a confrontation between a moronic employee and a frustrated journalist that is exasperatingly overworked. Some scenes are fantastically conceived; one featuring the incoherent discussion of a ‘blue-sky thinking’ group is downright hysterical, typifying the glimpses of hilarity that peppered the show.