Daniel Nelson

You feel as though you have lived four lifetimes after watching The Pulverised.

The lives are those of four people working for multinational corporations on three continents - a Chinese factory worker, a Romanian R&D engineer, a globe-trotting quality assurance manager, a Senegalese call centre team leader. All are overworked, overwrought, stressed, unhappy.

In turns they reveal snatches of their working and personal lives, before sinking to the floor, body twitching, to give the stage to a fellow wage-slave.

Writer Alexandra Badea packs plenty of information and incident into the monologues,including a factory fire cover-up and a near suicide, so you get vivid accounts of pressured lives, whether it's finally being given permission for a urine break while being mockingly watched by the all-powerful supervisor or talking to your young son on a laptop link-up from a hotel room while peeping at an interactve porn channel.

All four have lives outside the jobs that imprison them, but the jobs are so demanding that their non-work lives are squeezed and diminished. Globalisation is grinding them down.

The recurring leitmotifs are "the clock's ticking and you are falling behind" and "that's what life is all about: learning how to forget".

Yes, it's bleak, and after

Kate Miles in The Pulverised

Kate Miles in The Pulverised

Image by Pphoto: Dashti Jahfar

 a while the twitching, dropping bodies seem an overworked affectation. It's the old dilemma of how to present boredom without being boring, how to show unrelenting unhappiness without being spirit-sapping. The play comes with a top award in France, and though I felt the target was spot-on, some of the detail fascinating, and the personal disclosures rang bells, I was ready to call it a night before the lights finally went down on these blighted lives.

* The Pulverised is at the Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, E8, until 27 May; £17/£14/£12/£10. Info: 7503 1646/ BOXOFFICE@ARCOLATHEATRE.COM

Free post-show discussions

Thursday 11 May, The Future of Work, with Nan Craig, researcher at Centre for Global Studies; Jamie Woodcock, fellow at LSE and Ryan Avent (senior editor and economics columnist at The Economist).

Tuesday 16 May, Translating Theatre in the Globalised World, with William Gregory, translator Lucy Phelps, Sarah Maitland, and director Andy Sava.

Thursday 18 May: In conversation with the director, producer and set designer of The Pulverised

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