Review: Karoshi at the Etcetera Theatre, London

Friday 9th August 2019 at the Etcetera Theatre, London.


Ah, the world of work – what could be more ripe for a dressing down, a cheeky chinwag or a show intelligently reassuring us that our rates of unhappiness have little to do with things we actually have power over? In this show Mel Byron (directed by Chris Head) arrives to the stage with an axe to grind, slides to share and a collection of oddities from her time in the publishing world to poke fun at.

In truth, Karoshi is more of a lively Ted Talk on the universality of being used, abused and unhappy at work. There’s plenty of research mentioned and we’re even taken on a whistle stop tour of management systems through history which pinpoints the kind of thinking which turns workers into component parts of a fat cat company. But for me the research and slides are overdone – I’d be much more interested to hear more anecdotes about the working world Byron mentions at intervals – there is surely more to milk from personal experiences than looking at performance management models and the irksome management pioneers of yesteryear.

There’s certainly material of interest in Byron’s self-penned show but this feels like enthusiastic lecturing with plenty of wry asides rather than stand up or a performance we’d recognise as a theatrical show. It’s all done with a charming energy and a mildly comic dithering delivery but being a tongue in cheek take on a keynote speaker-therapist, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the comedy it sells itself to be.

Mel Byron has plenty to say and lots to back her up – Karoshi has good, relatable foundations but it needs better shape as either the scathing comic stand up it seems to want to be or as an accurately sold impassioned Ted Talk on recognising the system as the enemy.

Karoshi plays at the Etcetera Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe until 11th August and you can find tickets here.

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