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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Theatre review: The Competition is Fierce is a wild and rude ride

It’s audacious, funny, and a little long.

ITSAZOO Productions continues to carve out its place in Vancouver’s theatre landscape with edgy, in-your-face theatre. They like it gritty and raw, with unique staging if possible. The company continues that tradition with Sebastian Archibald’s The Competition is Fierce, a tale that takes place in the not to distant future, where the corporate ladder has been replaced by a fight arena.

A mega-corporation has been increasing shareholders earnings through wage reductions, closing factories, bringing on unpaid interns. As their director of finance recently committed suicide, the weary vice-president is looking for a replacement. Inviting a middle management sad sack into his office, he listens to his ideas about increasing profits by cutting wages from upper management and eliminating bonuses. Impressed, he is given the job. This enrages the company CEO however, for it is traditionally the winners in the Intimidation Ring, the fight arena where the top jobs are won and lost.

Part of the fun with this show, as in many of ITSAZOO productions, is in the staging. As the small audience is lead to the performance space, they encounter a corridor filled with weaponry and motivational posters, before entering a white cube with seating along the walls.

The entire cast are all game for this ride as they play out their character’s corporate tropes (ruthless vs nebbish, privileged vs needy). And while most of the outcomes are predictable, there is great fun in the acting and in the quips and sarcasm they trade. Chris Cochrane is hilarious with wide-eyed fear and forced bravado. Rachel Cairns is wickedly sharp, and finds the heart of the love story. Carlo Marks is cocky and unabashed and not afraid to go to some of the darker, more ruthless places his character must go. Marilyn Norry as the caustic and sexual CEO embodies the cruelty and sly smile needed to bend people to her will. Finally there is the almost ridiculously silly Andrew Wheeler, bombastic and tough one moment, and in the next in need of a hug; it’s broad stuff, but he finds a gravitas that makes it work.

There are some fun scenes as the two men battle it as they become more and more animalistic, and even while some of it is silly, you’ll also find your jaw drop in disbelief at some of the things they are able to do.

Clocking in at over two hours it does go on a bit long, and while you are not likely to come away with any new insight into the world of corporate gluttony, The Competition is Fierce is a wild and rude ride that will make you feel a little superior, and a whole lot giddy.

The Competitions is Fierce by Sebastien Archibald. Directed by Chelsea Haberlin. An ITSAZAOO Productions presentation. On stage at the Shop Theatre (125 East 2nd Ave, Vancouver) until March 22. Visit for tickets and information.

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