The show begins as a fully-fledged parody of multi-level marketing (MLM) businesses as “First CEO for the Wellington Region”, Eric (David Bowers-Mason) and trainee Zoe (Isabella Murray) teach us the ways of “Do Be Us”. The seven tenets of selling, the art of the verbal contract and the three words a seller should never use; “No”, “Sorry” and *I dare not type it even here*. The first half-ish of the play works in this mode, and it’s compelling and entertaining in equal measure. There are some killer gags and an undercurrent of desperation in the two characters that clearly brought them to this place in their lives.
This presentation is accompanied by a projector (AV/filming also by Bowers-Mason and Botting) screen which features helpful diagrams, live virtual sales calls, and a somewhat sexy stock-photoesque slideshow of the High Chairman (Kevin Orlando). The High Chairman is the big dog, and Do Be Us is built around his “power of attraction”. Orlando plays the part with the perfect amount of smarm and just enough gravitas to convincingly rule over Eric and Zoe from the virtual ether.
About half way through the show, there is a switch. I won’t spoil it in case the show returns, but Eric and Zoe start to get to know each other a little better and begin to try and unlock the identity of The High Chairman. Chaos ensues, and they unravel the mysteries of Do Be Us and attempt to share its secrets. This makes for a fun and engaging arc which keeps me engaged right to the end. My only disappointment plot-wise is that Zoe and Eric’s declaration of friendship towards the end feels pretty forced, and I’m not sure their relationship has actually developed all that much. This is largely because Eric undercuts Zoe right throughout the show. While this serves as an entertaining commentary on misogyny in sales environments (very real, very valid!) it somewhat limits the ability for us to believe their blossoming friendship.
Shift Your Paradigm is a successfully hilarious parody script and it’s at its best when in full presentation mode. Bowers-Mason nails deadpan comedic irony throughout the show and Murray delivers a fitting “everyman”-type performance to contextualise the absurdity of it all. I’d like to see some further development of Zoe’s role beyond the initial twist. Her character arc (without giving too much away) is left with one significant loose end wide open and largely feels like a sidekick to Eric’s protagonist. There’s no reason this show can’t be a more equitable two-hander and with further development I’ve no doubt this could be achieved giving the audience a richer experience.
All-in-all Shift Your Paradigm was a delightful way to spend an evening with side-splitting gags, hilarious premise, and a touch of anti-capitalist banter which always goes down a treat for a Wellington Fringe audience. Sadly, the rest of their season has been postponed due to COVID-19, but I sincerely hope it will return soon for audiences to enjoy.
To keep an eye out for future performances you can follow Tempest Theatre Co or David Bowers-Mason.