Written by UEA graduate Adrian Moore and directed by Katie Smith and Freya Bennett, Release tells the tense story of a man who is on the bottom rung of a very high corporate ladder. Tupper-Chrome is described as being at the centre of the city, and although its actual function is unclear, its shady practices, internal social workings and morals are slowly exposed to the protagonist, a menial postroom worker.
Although the world that Moore builds in Release is a convincing take on the corporate dystopia, it is reminiscent of other works such as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and indeed Minotaur’s 2017 short 2071, both of which explore themes of being trapped in an atmosphere that mixes the personal with the professional. In Release, the main character Worm’s workspace doubles as his living space, and the idea of creating a company that combines a social life and a work life is expanded upon throughout the play.
I would argue that despite the familiarity of the topic, Moore creates a more realistic take on it by reminding the viewer that the characters are not trapped; they choose to be a part of Tupper-Chrome. This is made clear by the character Eyes repeating to Worm “you’re allowed to leave”. Although the idea of being physically imprisoned in a Western dictatorship may not seem realistic, that of merely feeling imprisoned seems far more relatable.
An element I felt could have used more work is that of the secondary characters: although the protagonist is well-developed through his character arc, many of the other employees at Tupper-Chrome strike the viewer as somewhat one-dimensional. They fit certain stereotypes, from the chatty flirt to the fake-nice social climber, but are not properly explored as what they undoubtedly are: multi-faceted human beings who are as much victims of the company’s ethics as Worm or Eyes are.
Release has many qualities: the actors do very well with the little depth that their characters are given; the tense tone of the play, established by music and abrupt dialogue is suitably unsettling; the symbolism of the sterile décor and plain grey costumes is fitting to the play’s subject matter. However, the production of Moore’s piece cannot help the fact that it is a premise that has been visited and revisited many times before, and ultimately, in my opinion, does not bring enough to the table in terms of originality to redeem itself in this respect.