Cultures Theatre

Meeting Rooms and Managers – The quest to make us laugh

I have a confession. I played Dungeons and Dragons in lockdown and I enjoyed it (somewhat). Admittedly it’s probably more fun when it’s not just you and your partner, making various sound effects at each other as if we hadn’t left our flat in days, while his half-orcs shattered and destroyed my characters’ hopes and dreams. But, the further we got into our campaign, the more invested we became and the better I got at slaying those dastardly half-orcs. In the end, Dungeons and Dragons won me over. What initially were battered plastic figurines, forlorn and forgotten from decades past, soon morphed into furious fighters, calculating clerics and rakish rogues. Dungeons and Dragons does the unthinkable in today’s world. It makes you imagine.

And it’s cool too. Gone are the days of Dungeons and Dragons being considered a satanic game with players hunched together in basements. Today the tabletop role-playing fantasy game is socially acceptable. Even Joe Manganiello (yes that Joe Manganiello) is a dungeon master himself with his own elite Hollywood club

So when the Oxford University Light Entertainment Society announced their latest virtual show, ‘Meeting Rooms and Managers’, I was hopelessly excited. They hadn’t made it easy for themselves either. Instead of following human players, ‘Meeting Rooms and Managers’ follows four mythical players along with their enthusiastic game master as they discover the intriguing world of corporate management. Instead of Akani, Lugeret, Theicka and Evashtzaj battling dark elves and demons, interns Sarah, Noah, Liam and Emma would be investigating corporate espionage.

It’s a charming show and features all the various jokes you would expect from a production based on Dungeons and Dragons made during a global pandemic. Zoom room mixups, Deliveroo deliveries running late, forgotten character sheets and the tense question of whose die to use all feature within the first five minutes. And there’s the usual commentary on office life as well: finance departments insisting they have no control, marketing gurus becoming obsessed with the latest studies and HR operatives doing anything to do nothing. It’s not a show that’s going to offend ordinary mortals or enthusiastic gamers.

Yet when it does step out and push at its self inflicted boundaries, the show instantly jumps alive. The boss level is fantastic, with a hilarious parody of Street Fighter and Super Smash Bros. The weapon selection and moves alone are laugh out loud moments. As often the villains have all the fun, as seen with a Donald Trump like Sir Bob (Branonc ‘Let’s sabotages some glands’ Richards) who enjoys some excellent eyebrow choreography. The deadpan Janice and Tanis, (Ekin ‘Have lost all my pens’ Pehilvan and Sophie ‘Tennis Logo’ Holland respectively), though on screen for a matter of minutes, are also entertaining and reminiscent of a Janet gone wrong from ‘The Good Place’.

There are other standout moments during our players’ campaign. Vedmad the dungeon master (Nick ‘I don’t think I’m qualified for this’ Richardson) has an electric energy that jumps through the screen and William (Tom’ Am I the problem?’ Vallely) from HR has found a wonderful balance point of being habitually nervous. The graphics of the die rolling across the screen and the end credits being replaced by character sheets add a lovely touch of authenticity to the production. This is a show that cares about this game, perhaps to a fault. 

It’s an ambitious show, both in production values and length. Running at just under two hours it can be repetitive at times and there are elements you can miss out on without ruining the plot (if there’s a song, skip it). But despite this, ‘Meeting Rooms and Managers’ manages to take its audience along an amusing, if gentle, quest across the office floor. It’s a show that, with a bit more time, some fine-tuning and the courage to laugh at the game we all enjoy, you could expect to see at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. All the elements there. 

Meeting Rooms and Managers is available on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVyMcPnkKWU&ab_channel=OULESLightEntertainment

Carol Jones writes 'The Good Grief Notes' column for the Oxford Blue, where she also writes about culture and women's rights. She studies DPhil Music Composition at St Catherine's and works as a freelance composer.