Jo is a manager at a large (unnamed) company. He’s a stickler for workplace health and safety rules. No one’s allowed up a ladder without first filling out a risk-assessment form, and if you have an accident, he’s going to want to see the incident report. Maintaining brand image is everything, and Jo’s quick to reinforce company values and quote the HR manual when he wants to make a point and show his employees who’s boss.

A desk, a couple of chairs, some office items and a golf club: the performance space in the ballroom at Ayers House is set simply but effectively for this satisfying two-hander that revels in the nuances of bureaucratic jargon.

Tim Marriott and Stefanie Rossi are a perfect pairing.

It was easy to spot the audience members who’ve worked in corporate or government environments. Appraisal is chock full of the cringeworthy buzzwords and dead phrases that epitomise soulless office-speak, eliciting laughter that’s likely prompted by personal experience. Many of us have sat in Nicky’s seat, and we could be forgiven for thinking we know how her session is going to play out.

This is no run-of-the-mill performance assessment, though. Jo has a different agenda, and before long the pair are engaged in an increasingly uncomfortable power struggle that upends the usual office hierarchy.

Since its well-received debut performances in last year’s Adelaide Fringe, Appraisal has scooped awards and five-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe. For its 2024 Adelaide run, it features the show’s creator, Tim Marriott, and South Australian actor Stefanie Rossi. It’s a perfect pairing. Both are superb at handling the intricate dialogue and shifting sands of the work relationship.

As the tables turn then turn again, tensions rise. Jo and Nicky’s verbal sparring quickly progresses from forced banter to explosive revelations as ulterior motives and office secrets are exposed.

In addition to Appraisal, UK actor/writer/director Marriott is back performing in an encore season of last year’s sell-out solo show Watson: The Final Problem (reviewed here in 2023), and as the presentor and director of The New Abnormal. Rossi is a familiar face to Adelaide theatre lovers, for past productions including What is the Matter with Mary Jane? (Holden Street) and Constellations (Bakehouse).

Appraisal is a tightly written and compellingly performed evisceration of “integrity”, “transparency” and the cut and thrust of workplace dynamics.

Appraisal is showing at the Ballroom (Ayers House) until March 16. There will be a single performance at the Main Theatre (Goodwood Theatre and Studios) on March 10.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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