JobReady | Big Muscles Sad Heart

Image by Jek Maurer

Matte is on the job hunt and his Bachelor of Arts and interest in music aren’t proving lucrative. JobReady explores the demoralising state of the current job market in a series of satirical interview and sketch scenarios.

Matte (Matte Rochford) has been on welfare for some time and, after sustaining an injury at his cash-in-hand cafe job, has enlisted JobReady to increase his chances of landing a job. Over the course of the application process, Matte encounters many quirky and colourful characters happy to wield their power over his vulnerability. For those familiar with the intersections of the welfare and casual work systems, the scenes of shame and embarrassment will ring true.

In particular, an extreme group interview hosted by a professional interviewing organisation burns with recognition as the characters are forced to engage in physical theatre games. In another pseudo-interview, Matte meets with a mysterious (mob) boss-esque figure (Sarah Easterman) who hints at sinister and underhand dealings with JobReady, perhaps as a critique of the opaque and unfair structures that gate-keep pathways to stable employment. These collected interviews and meetings with Matte’s JobReady agent form the narrative of Caitlin Doyle-Markwick’s script as Matte spirals into desperation and overwhelming frustration.

The ensemble are elastic to Matte’s rigidity and bend to build the disheartening world of his circumstances. Doyle-Markwick is aggressively non-sensical as the professional interviewer Chris, while Sabrina D’Angelo plays a despicable and grating lifestyle entrepreneur that deigns to trial Matte early on.

The design from Sarah Easterman is strongly atonal with Matte in an out-dated drab beige suit, the ensemble in interchangeable beige underclothes, and a set constructed with masking tape and cardboard. The atmosphere is soulless and dispiriting to reflect the experience of feigned enthusiasm for lack-lustre employment opportunities. Throughout his trials, Matte’s characterisation remains remarkably nondescript, helpless to overcoming the obstacles in his way as a humdrum punter.

Late in the play, Matte receives news that his payments have been stopped and he has been issued a debt notice, an allusion to the Centrelink robo-debt catastrophe which has inconvenienced people on one end of the spectrum and threatened or taken the lives of the most vulnerable on the other. But this reference remains slight without exploration and fades as quickly as Matte’s self-esteem.

Largely, the play operates as a loose satire that affirms the experiences of the generation most impacted by changing working conditions and financial instability. The conclusion, or more accurately, the motivation for the piece feels illusive. While an interpretive dance to the Centrelink hold music or an exceedingly abrasive receptionist is funny, JobReady doesn’t reach quite far enough into absurdity or earnestness to achieve a substantial statement about the modern world.

JobReady is running at Old 505 Theatre from August 13th – 17th

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