Thirty telephones. Forty characters. One actor to juggle them all.
Contessa Treffone is Sam, a struggling actor working a high-stress day job taking reservations for one of Sydney’s most fashionable restaurants.
If you want to sample chef’s latest molecular gastronomy creations – his “smoked cuttlefish risotto in a cloud of dry ice infused with pipe tobacco”, for example – you need deep pockets and book at least three months in advance.
But Sydney’s foodies and influencers want what they want right now. Or by 8pm at the latest. It falls to Sam to sort out the inevitable mess, which also includes, on this occasion, the unplanned arrival of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and the complex arrangements demanded by Gwyneth Paltrow’s chirpy personal assistant for this weekend’s vegan banquet for 15.
On top of all that, Sam also has to manage the bad boy head chef and his temperamental underlings, appease an angry magazine editor, push her agent for an audition call-back, and clean up after an unfortunate incident in the gents toilet.
In short, just another ordinary day in hell.
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Written by Becky Mode back in 1999, Fully Committed (restaurant speak for “we’re overbooked by at least 30 per cent”) has had its cultural reference points updated and character voices translated from pre-GFC New York City to modern day Sydney. It’s fairly seamless, though making Sam’s audition one for the Ensemble Theatre does feel a touch too cute.
Dramatically and satirically, Fully Committed is a slender piece. There are times when it feels more like a plate-spinning act than a play. But director Kate Champion and the tirelessly energetic Treffone give it an entertaining physical life on designer Anna Tregloan’s basement-like, PABX-equipped set.
Flicking between characters, Treffone’s performance is impressively detailed and sustained (a considerable feat of memory and stamina, too) and in her delivery of both sides of the telephone conversations she throws up (can I use that expression?) some funny sketch portraits of the Emerald City smart set.
Subplots centred on Sam’s acting fortunes and her widowed dad’s hope that she will come home for Christmas are thin but warmly sounded.
Given Treffone’s already fulsome commitment to the piece, it seems cruel to suggest the show could run even faster than it does now, but there, I said it.