A Sharp and Sincere Look into British Ego: ‘Warehouse’ Review

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'Warehouse' at the Camden Fringe

★★★★✰

A dead-end job, the death of a mother, and a cancer scare: Mog is going through it. A gruelling temp job that was supposed to last two months has drudged on for two years. Her boss, Albescu, won’t give her break and seems to be waiting for her next slip-up. Her one solace is her alliance with Alina as they stumble between broken English and more broken Romanian. Mog’s health crisis is the catalyst that sets Warehouse in motion. With emphasis on the ramifications of the Brexit referendum, Warehouse forces us to examine our prejudices and when we use them.

Mog isn’t good at processing returns at the warehouse. She eats crisps out of old coats and carelessly tears clothes with her boxcutter. If there is any passion to feel about a repetitive job with unrealistic daily targets, Mog is not feeling it. However, what she lacks in elbow grease, she makes up for in her comedic timing. As her mind wanders from her full-body shave to the newfound lump on her chest, she reels us in. It feels like your first day on the job when an endearingly chatty colleague takes you under their wing. All the while, her cheeky sense of humour cannot conceal her disdain towards the job.

Warehouse’s writing is grounded and has a sincere grit to the dialogue. Even when Mog is spending her last hours with her mum, we still hear snark comments on the Eastern Europeans in the town. It is in these conversations that the writer’s skills flourish. In one minute, the mother is facing her death in a blasé manner and in the next, they are bantering over Russian hats and what’s on the telly. The ghost of Mog’s mother looms over her ugliest speeches. The unaddressed grief she feels for her mother looms over her both at work and at the hospital. The echo of her late mother rings in her outbursts about her superior English and her ‘right to be here’.

The characters’ frustrations carry that grating sense of being ‘so close’ to the heart of the problems they are facing. When Mog is at the crux of her desperation, she can cling only to her unquestionable entitlement to her birthplace. She is fond of Alina and wants to help her when Brexit rescinds her right to remain in the UK. But when she is talking to a Romanian she doesn’t like, she is all to willing to weaponise the xenophobia they face in Britain. As the walls close in around her, Mog increasingly feels like the Romanians at work back each other up at her expense. Albescu and Alina express their experience of being on the receiving end of hostility in Britain. As a result, the conflicts between Mog and Albescu get very ugly very quickly.

There is always a lingering sense of exploitation that the characters never unpack. This is not a shortcoming, quite the opposite. All of the characters are doing 12-hour shifts at the warehouse, picking dust and faux fur out of their eyes and other dodgy places. Everyone has a boss who’s only one rung up on ladder and they are the villain of the day-job. There is no acknowledgement of why they are fighting amongst each other when none of the characters have much power to change the structure of their workplace. This is often the sticking point that contextualises the tensions of a multicultural space that is riddled with xenophobia and Warehouse portrays it with sharp accuracy.

Warehouse is a fabulous example of extending one’s understanding to prejudices and discrimination without letting ourselves off the hook. Mog has an inviting energy but it is not enough to wave away her more pernicious instincts towards her coworkers.

Words by Elizabeth Sorrell


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