By Jay Menard
Cleaning Up is ostensibly a story about people who deal with what others “leave” behind, but this charming and hilarious show is, at its roots, about the wonderful (and sometimes not-so-wonderful, yet still memorable) moments and people that we take with us along the way.
There is so much to love about this show. From the delightfully endearing and conversational nature of playwright and lead Tammy Vink, to the wonderfully entertaining, wink-and-a-nod-melodrama of Sookie Mei, to the charming versatility of Dinah Watts (who embodied several ancillary roles and went from bratty to tender with aplomb), the three main actresses weave together a story that is exceptionally paced, light-hearted, and eminently relatable.
Not everyone has been a cleaner, but all of us have experienced that “What do I do now moment?” Whether it’s freelancing, asking for your first raise, or negotiating a contract, we’ve all experienced that what do I do now moment? And we’ve all found ourselves in a position where we have to fake it until we make it.
It’s clear that these three have a wonderful chemistry and it is apparent in every scene and every moment. In addition to be comfortable with each other, the three are also clearly at home on the stage and able to roll with whatever eventuality comes at them. In the opening night performance, Watts, while embracing her inner 70s douchebag, lost control of a particular prop — essentially at risk of drinking her fake moustache. But without missing a beat, and with a touch of ribald humour, she kept the show going and added a memorable beat to a tight-knit production.
There are some clever cultural references throughout — from Wayne’s World-inspired flashbacks to Twilight Zone-themed asides. And Vink’s seamless narrative style transitioning from establishing the scene with the audience to participating in the action, never felt rushed, forced, or out of rhythm. Vink and Mei were able to transition from crowd to stage with incredible dexterity and the pacing never flagged.
In the end, Cleaning Up felt less like a production, but more like a conversation. We were not performed to, but rather engaged in a one-way dialogue of a friend sharing career war stories.
Cleaning Up is one show that you won’t want to sweep under the rug. It’s a well-polished show that’s a must-see show on this year’s Fringe circuit.
This review originally appeared on theatreinlondon.ca