‘About walls’ would be selling Amphibious a bit short on numerous levels. As part of TakeOver Festival 2017, it technically was about the theme of walls, but Julia Levai’s increasingly distinctive and consistently enjoyable style paired with a talented cast and crew has made an ebullient piece of theatre that avoids being pinned down quite so simply. And, to put it bluntly, it was a great time.
The play generally followed the fictional Amphibious Company’s ‘Guide for Interns’ – videos and slimy How To’s on handling workplace conflicts and office social skills – interspersed with earnest and endearing speeches from each cast member. For the most part these avoided the pitfall of awkwardly oversharing, and provided some moments of real nostalgic charm: thinking back to the time when fishnet tights and shorts was cool, or when you find your friend’s bedroom wall is built right over your old season ticket seat. It was this versatility of the cast, shifting from earnestness straight into wall-obsessed informational videos, that kept the show vitally self-aware, quickly moving along, and pretty much just joyful to watch.
Amphibious was a show full of joyful little gems: an ensemble Wikipedia wall song; an intern rehearsing his presentation as a film noir to help remember it; the haunting question of when does a glass wall become a window… John Chisham’s musical direction deserves special mention – from the vintage video game-esque music introducing the competing interns, to a ‘Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared’-meets-infomercial FAQ song, the music followed the show’s alternation between light and witty to occasionally slightly unsettling.
It’s a show that’s difficult to criticise. If I was being picky, the brown paper brick wall gradually built through the middle of the stage began to feel more gimmicky towards the end of the play than when it was a physicalised device at the start. Maybe the wall needed to be a couple of boxes higher, or the cast to be actually trapped on one side of the stage rather than move between the two – in a play both literally and figuratively about walls, it might have actually been nice to have the audience inadvertently walled off from half of the cast and action.
But criticisms genuinely do feel minor and sort of irrelevant, really. I had a great time. Everyone around me had a great time, and it looked like the cast did too. And if you can make a great time about the foreboding dread of making your way in a ‘grown-up’ world of internships and a hell of a lot of walls, then what more could an audience want?