Fulfilment review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘inventive mixture of puppetry and verbatim theatre’
Though the term ‘fulfilment centre’ might paint a different picture, Amazon’s goods are dispatched from huge warehouses staffed by workers on zero-hour contracts. Union membership is discouraged. Toilet breaks are considered TOT – Time Off Task – so employees avoid drinking water. Fear of dismissal for unmet targets is constant.
Kezia Cole and Richard Hay’s inventive show combines verbatim material drawn from interviews with Amazon workers with comic sequences featuring Robox, a cute puppet made of corrugated cardboard with long spiralling limbs, who’s part logo, part algorithm. Created by Jimmy Grimes and manipulated bunraku-style by the cast, he’s a perky and friendly presence, eager to learn the tastes of his audience, to meet their every need.
Moments of audience interaction with Robox are woven with increasingly frenzied depictions of Amazon workers running themselves ragged, the cast tearing around the space until they’re red-faced and sweating.
While the juxtaposition between Robox’s disarmingly cheery scenes and the reality of the employees’ lives is marked, the two sides of the show feel a bit disconnected. The verbatim sections are distressing and compelling in their own right – the anger at the way large corporations treat their workers radiates from the piece. These stories deserve more space.
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