Invective dominates. Jealous bridesmaids and cynical commuters vent their spleens, and a grammar nazi goes berserk at hearing the word “literally” misused, unleashing an especially fast and furious Gilbert & Sullivan-like patter-song, in which he denounces common solecisms.
There’s a choral ode to religious intolerance, and an entire suite devoted to bad office behaviour: from sexism to co-workers who steal lunch from the work fridge.
We’re invited to compare horrible humans (who’s worse: Charles Manson or Voldemort?), indulge fantasies of violent revolution or escape to a desert island, and to lament, in a song titled Where The Hell Is Darwin When You Need Him?, a world that seems to promote survival of the stupidest.
Less convincing are the stabs that complicate human folly and vice with heartfelt emotion: a song at the funeral of a school bully, say, or one from a mother helpless to prevent her child’s suffering. It isn’t that these songs are bad, or ineptly sung, they’re just out of place.
People Suck has the potential to be first-rate musical comedy. Megan Phillips and Peter Cavell write eclectic melodies with dark and often wonderfully witty lyrics. But the show needs a prune, and urgent attention to design and stagecraft is needed to avoid amateurish moments such as performers standing in dark patches on a lit stage.
As a scratch production of a satirical cabaret show, though, it’s talented, and with more honed performances and skilled theatrecraft, it could easily become an underground highlight at the next comedy festival.