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20,000 Leagues Under the Office

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I'll admit that I wasn't expecting Publick Transport's '20,000 Leagues Under the Office' to be one of the highlights of Mayfest '06. Compared to some of the eclecticism and genre-busting on show, PT's comedy about two office workers hurtling towards the centre of the earth in a lift seemed solid, accessible. But oh, what they managed to do with it! Saba McKinnon and the Graham Chapmanesque Angus Barr are astonishingly witty and lithe, and blessed with a preternatural on-stage chemistry. They turned their simple story in on itself with a series of brilliant visual gags, what-ifs, surreal tales and 30-second comedy skits. Tight, hilarious, and very English: lust, paranoia and surrealism lurking beneath the pinstriped respectability.
Steve Wright, Venue, May '06

Just when you think you've got your most outstanding shows of the year sorted along comes this two-hander from Publick Transport to upset the list.
Colleagues taking the lift to a humdrum office meeting suddenly find themselves speeding towards the centre of the earth and certain death. What follows is an extraordinary mix of dancing, cannibalism, banjo playing, brilliant parody, existentialist speculation, social satire, post-modern audience participation, and more - all in one hour.
Saba McKinnon and Angus Barr are, besides anything else, masters of mime: with the help of a few deliberately cliched sound effects they convince you that they're trapped in a lift. They can speak to people in the upper world on their mobiles, so they act other outrageously stock characters as well.
Barr is also responsible for the script, which proceeds according to its own internal logic in all sorts of directions, often at once. And all the time there's that unspoken and comic sexual tension, which is somehow released at the end - or is it?
Underlying the comedy, indeed sometimes reaching the surface, is an implied discussion about the nature of freedom and its relationship to death. But even that's shown to be funny.
Alan Geary, Nottingham Evening Post, Dec '06


WAY-OUT AND WACKY
However inviting the prospect - the Spinnaker's panorama or just revisiting Grace Brothers - you won't get me in a lift in a hurry, or even in one travelling slowly. Oi! See that's what happens when you travel by Publick Transport to the outer (or is it the inner?) realms of wackydom. Logic and all the old humour restraints go straight down the chute, the whole way through to Australia and beyond. Marvellous trip. Just the comedy ticket every festival needs. In a magical hour, with minimal props, initially sober-suited Angus Barr and demure Saba McKinnon, with impeccable, often statuesquely comic acting, mangled phobias and funnybones, theirs and ours, in an apparently unstoppable plunge to oblivion. The lift we shared with them was evidently made by O Tis the End of Us and resembled a suburban Tardis with aspirations, but every word, tic, shriek, lurch, phone-ring and attempted strangulation was entirely their own manically funny work. Two resolutions: to never enter a lift without one's mobile phone, lifebelt, ample food and drink, cyanide capsule, Guide to Strine, and, sorry folks, chamberpot. And to demand that next year's Festivities have this dandy duo back again (I'd love to see them dissecting the NHS), plus the other half, with Angus, of the winsome warm-up act, the Banjulele Brothers. Meanwhile, after this exhilarating madcappery which could have been subtitled Monty and Mavis Python Meet Jules Verne, some of us are off to the zaniness detox farm and a week of rhubarb crumble, clearly now cult dish of the age.
Terry Timblick, Chichester Today, July '06


*BEST PERFORMANCE*
You arrive at the office, paper under your arm, sandwiches in your briefcase for another dull day of mundanity. Nothing could be more ordinary, that is until you step into the lift and find yourself plummeting towards the centre of the earth! What is the office protocol for such a situation, who do you inform, and does your life flashing before you count as a misuse of company time?
Of course everyone knows the worst thing about being in a lift is not knowing where to look. Should you attempt to engage fellow travellers in conversation or simply stare straight ahead at the display of the floors passing? Jeremy and Janice are unsure, but given the severity of the situation it might be permissible to just go with their feelings.
Jeremy makes a frantic call to his wife to say goodbye and as ever is greeted by a chilly response as she is more bothered about the state of his finances than anything else! Janice calls her beloved grandmother and suddenly finds the way to break through her shyness to reach the woman she never knew she was capable of being. In a delightful parody of all the best romantic movies of the 40s and 50s, one minute they are barely able to say a word to each other, the next they are calling each other 'darling' as love blossoms suddenly in extremis!
More fun than you would ever imagine an hour spent on the brink of death could be! Publick Transport expertly combine physical theatre with dark comedy and ridiculous disaster movie parodies to contort the space-time continuum in their staging of the unstageable.
Sarah Jane Downing, Big Issue, May '06


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