By James Knudsen
9 to 5 is a story of the liberation of three women from negative patriarchal figures. Violet (played by Katie Conti), Judy (Harriet Shaw) and Doralee (Ela Heeley) find power in friendship and comradery to overcome the patriarchal boundaries that exist in their professional and personal lives through unconventional, but undoubtedly amusing means. LSE Drama society has done well to embody the empowerment of these three heroines and their colleagues, sticking it to the man in a fashion that is satisfying, entertaining and amusing throughout.
Director Ellen McLean has done a solid job of bringing together a cast of twenty seven enthusiastic students. Through McLean’s direction and choreography, the ensemble’s movement provides a dynamic feel that lends well to the busy office atmosphere. The company should also be commended for strong ensemble singing moments in large, powerful numbers like the act one finale ‘Shine like the Sun’. The individual ensemble members are well integrated throughout the piece, with many of them having featured lines that provide a refreshing variety and unpredictability to the piece. This is a testament to McLean’s strong casting of the show, with nearly all the actors suiting their role very well.
The set and scenery do leave something to be desired. One’s immersion in the office space is suspended slightly due to occasional excesses of dead space where desks and other office amenities would be. An ongoing challenge for the Drama Society is creating fully realised staging and scenery at a university that does not have a dedicated theatre for performances, limiting what can conceivably be achieved due to limited space and logistical issues. However, their results continue to improve with each production, showing that the society’s members adapt well in the face of adversity.
Good comedic timing is a great strength of the lead cast. There is no better example of this than Harriet Shaw’s performance as Judy. Shaw skillfully imbues what might be a stereotypically ditsy character with depth, offsetting well-timed and charismatic punchlines with moments of real introspection and strength. This culminates at the end of Act 2 in ‘Get Out and Stay Out’, where audible cheers from the audience erupted before the number even finished. It should be noted that the production’s comedic moments do not cheapen the serious themes that are tackled, as the humour highlights the malevolence of the characters who take advantage of the good nature of our leading ladies.
Katie Conti is grounded and believable as Violet Newstead, a widow who is underappreciated and underpaid at work, despite the obvious fact that her efforts hold the entire office together. Conti shows good range, embodying different performative masks as Violet depending on whom she is speaking to: boss, colleague or friend. Moments when Conti lets these masks down and allows Violet to be vulnerable land sincerely, providing real gravity to a high-octane production that mostly lifts itself several feet off the ground.
Lara Arencibia Pender as Roz is committed and – at times – hilarious. She blows the roof off the SU with her vocally powerful and impressive performance of ‘Heart to Hart’. The riff at the end had so much of the audience whooping, that I’m sure they were heard upstairs in The Three Tuns. This bombastic number alone makes the visit to the Venue worth it.
9 to 5 provides a great laugh whilst issuing a strong reminder that social injustice can still be found in the spaces that we assume to be the safest. The self-awareness of the cast pushes these comedic and political themes into the hearts of the audience, urging us to choose respect and love, and to stand in opposition against everyday discrimination that we might witness or be subject to. Whether you’ve had a long day full of classes or business meetings, you should come to see 9 to 5 at 6:45pm at the Venue before it closes on Friday 25th March, whilst you still have the chance.