Saturday, January 28

Temping – Assembly George Square Studios

Temping is like nothing else I’ve seen at the Edinburgh Fringe, being more of an interactive experience than a show. The premise is simple, you have been brought into the company to cover some shifts for an absent employee. I was led into my new office, an excellently decorated set inside a cargo container, and told that the owner of the office, Sarah Jane, had left an instruction message for me. Throughout the hour, I had to complete various tasks, primarily changing former employees’ statuses from active to deceased, as well as answer phone calls and emails, each instructing me on how to proceed. The genius of the show though, is that many of these emails are not scripted. If I replied to an email, I would get a response to it. In a way, it is like you’re improvising. The general script is set, but you decide how to react to it. There was a camera in the office, so I assume someone was watching my progress and responding to my emails.

There is also a well written plot woven throughout, slowly revealed through various tasks. Flirty faxes appear every ten minutes or so, hinting at a scandalous affair within the office. This affair is later revealed, providing another chance to interact as your boss begs you not to go to HR. It also becomes apparent that Sarah Jane is not on holiday, but has been fired, and you are her replacement. In revenge, she swapped your printer with James’, who is having the affair with the boss. Which explains why you’ve been receiving the flirty faxes.

The lasting impression of Temping, though, is a morbid one. I spent the majority of my time labelling people as deceased or calculating how much longer they have to live. These people, who appear on the monitor as the lights dim in a fun moment of levity, are reduced to numbers in a system. This is made abundantly clear when, after I listened to my last message from Sarah Jane in which she talks about how long she’s going to live, her face appears on the monitor. This is set up brilliantly, as she has mentioned throughout her messages that she is flying to Hawaii, feeling she has to finally explore areas beyond her state, but that she is scared that it isn’t safe. I assume she died on her way there.

Temping makes you think in many ways. On a basic level, despite the instructions, you have to figure out exactly how to respond in each situation. But it also makes you think deeply about the state of the working world. Are we really just numbers labelled either active or deceased, easily replaced by the supposed temp? And if so, is this the way we want the world to be?

Temping continues until 28th August with all remaining shows showing sold out. Check HERE or at the venue for returns.

Reviewer: Ben Pearson

Reviewed: 13th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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