A comic tour de force from Kevin Bishop as the Menier revives its debut show
In this play of the same name, ‘fully committed’ translates as ‘Really, really, really full’. That’s according to the hapless reservations stooge fending off hundreds of calls to the city’s most sought-after restaurant in Becky Mode’s 1999 comedy.
The phrase goes for the play itself. It’s absolutely packed: filled with odd, funny, infuriating characters, from celebrities and sheiks to little old rich ladies. And ‘fully committed’ also goes some way to describing the single, manic performer who has to play all 39 of these characters each night.
That mantle falls to comic Kevin Bishop in this revival of the play that launched the Menier Chocolate Factory ten years ago. Bishop portrays the unnamed ‘resting’ thesp who turns up to his paying-the-bills job in a grotty basement office to take calls from awful people. Alternating between the thesp’s patient-yet-bewildered reactions to the demands down the line and the voices of the people ringing, Bishop gives a tour de force funny man performance. In one moment he’s a supermodel's coke-snorting Australian assistant, ringing to ask if he can bring new bulbs for her visit so the lighting isn’t too harsh; in another he’s Mrs Seebag, who’s having a nervous breakdown because her reservation hasn’t been noted.
Bishop moves swiftly and easily from one character to another and manages the clamour of voices very well. He has a way with physical comedy too: his face contorts suddenly and magnificently into the expressions of each of the mad people we hear. The show is nicely timed and director Mark Setlock, who performed the piece ten years ago, makes important space for some well-judged pauses.
The play is slight, and at its thinnest it just feels like an amalgamation of sketches. But there is a relatable story here about responsibility, depression and hope and Bishop makes sure we’re rooting for the underdog all the way.