Live Review: Hard Copy by Isabelle Sorente

hard copy index
Camden People’s Theatre, Euston, London, 30/06/2019

Hard Copy was advertised as a scathing black comedy about office life by the French playwright Isabelle Sorente, with this production being it’s English debut with a translation by Martin Goodman. It was originally performed in 2001 but even back then I’d be surprised if anyone found it that satisfying as it’s quite the oddity, a very uneven play which has severe pacing issues and a denouement which just comes across as absurd, but not in any positive way.

Even more of an issue is that it’s just not that funny, or at least the second half of the production isn’t and the attempts at humour don’t land. It starts off in a vaguely amusing manner as four women, Blanche (Amy Connery), Belle (Lucy Hanneghan), Douce (Jo Emery) and Rose (Lianne Wiedmann) arrive at work and discuss their weekends, and their insincerity towards each other generated the occasional laugh, but once they begin to turn on each other it became rather tedious to watch.

Initially their bickering and arguing doesn’t seem to have any focus as all four occasionally snap at one of the others, but after Rose makes a misjudged comment about how women are expected to be “a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom” she becomes the main target of their scorn, and it gets more and more out of hand as Rose attempts to stand up for herself which only causes the situation to become bleaker.

It’s an odd piece, at one point while discussing their weekends one of the women casually mentions how she volunteered for a homeless charity, but rather than dishing out food she had sex with eight of the men there, and this is largely ignored. The rest of the play is largely grounded in reality (at least until the end) so it sticks out like a sore thumb, the point supposedly being that the women turn on Rose for a minor transgression whereas one of their own can be as outlandish as she likes and it doesn’t bother them, but it doesn’t really work and just comes across as bizarre.

Even worse is that the bullying is of a largely tiresome variety as they attack Rose over her body odour, choice of clothing, and general all round appearance, and then out of the blue a terrible act of violence takes place and it just seems silly, it hadn’t been built up to in an even vaguely realistic manner, and whatever points Isabelle Sorente was attempting to make about office politics and the way women treat each other is lost due to the ludicrous direction the play takes in it’s final ten minutes.

All of the cast turn in strong performances and in general it’s well directed, if rather statically for most of it’s duration, but the text is so weak and so bland that even despite everyone being clearly talented they unfortunately failed to create anything interesting here. Workplace bullying and the way women interact has been the topic of a lot of fascinating art over the years but this play doesn’t come close to falling in to such a category, and unless it was severely rewritten I don’t think it’ll ever be of any real interest to anyone.

Alex Finch.
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