I often struggle with dramatic depictions of salespeople. This is because I was one once. I know the tricks of the trade, had the gift of the gab, knew the art of the deal. And as a result, I know that a lot of what is written when we depict salespeople in dramas they are not realistic. It’s an artistic rendering of the grubbiness of commerce and the self-aggrandisement of the kind of people who would genuinely describe themselves as having the ‘gift of the gab’, often imbued with the kind of snobbery that values the art and the artist above all else.
There was definitely a sense of that in the first half of The Here and This and Now. The drama revolving around a repeated sales pitch of pure bullshit selling a drug that none of the reps – with the exception of failed medical student Robbie – understand.
The play is a sometimes-biting satire on the global pharmaceuticals industry. It doesn’t pull its punches either about the threats facing humanity as we continue to view healthcare globally almost entirely through the lens of profit and have outsourced worrying about product development to those who see life-saving drugs as mere products. We are introduced to the world of big pharma first through the world of its lowly worker bees – the sales reps. Then later through the eyes of its victims.
The repetition in the first section worked in terms of showing us the falseness of the lies these salespeople were telling, but by the fourth go around it got a bit wearing. And with the almost non-existent set, there was nowhere for the eye to wander for relief. O”n the other hand, as a depiction of a training day, perhaps that boredom was part of the plan. It certainly made it truer to life. There were a few small stumbles. I found a joke about Opium misplaced given the Opioid crisis in the US (driven largely by the actions of drug companies and their lobbyists).
Overall this play has a timely and well-delivered message particularly in the second half of the drama which held my attention throughout and brought new meaning to the phrase “death by PowerPoint”. The performances were good and there was a great subtlety used elsewhere in the second half that balanced the sometimes heavier-handed approach.
All in all, this is an interesting play with a worthwhile message. That it sometimes falls into the sales trap of going at that message too hard is a gentle irony that doesn’t detract too much from the final product.
The Here and Now and This is on until 10 February. Tickets from £16