Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Theatre review: Roaring Trade

When Steve Thompson's Roaring Trade premiered in 2009, it was nominally set a couple of years earlier, as it lifted the lid on some of the dodgy-but-legal trading practices that had caused the banking crash. In Alan Cohen's revival at the Park, today's Evening Standard is clearly displayed at one point, because this is a play about characters, and an industry, that doesn't learn lessons (unless it's the lesson that they can keep doing what they like because they'll get bailed out if it goes wrong.) Donny (Nick Moran) is the archetypal barrow-boy trader; he and his colleague Jess (Lesley Harcourt) spend their days buying and selling stock for millions of pounds at a time; their preferred technique includes bullying and manipulating their co-workers into making mistakes that will work out to their own benefit.

When newcomer Spoon (Timothy George) needs to be shown the ropes, Donny is all too happy to trip him up for his own gain, but Spoon quickly picks up the more questionable tricks of the trade, and is soon starting to look like a threat.


I was interested to see how well Roaring Trade held up because the original production had one hell of a cast (including Andrew Scott, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Nicolas Tennant,) and I wondered if that much talent on stage was the real reason it had been so memorable. Although this cast isn't quite on the same level for the most part they do OK, yet six years on this may well still be the culture among traders, but there's not much that surprises about it any more, and that's a bigger problem.


There's other issues dogging the production, not least that of pacing. A twenty-minute interval has been shoehorned into a show that would have run at 90 minutes without it, which certainly doesn't help. Grant Hicks' set is dominated by Douglas O'Connell's ugly and monotonous projections (Ben said afterwards that he thought Chris Drohan's sound design gave a much better sense of time and place than they did) and with four desks centre stage, the sightlines from the sides are often bad.


Meanwhile Michael McKell, who is what would happen if you drew Marc Warren as a Disney villain, plays middle-aged trader PJ as something of a comedy drunk rather than a cautionary tale of how the younger characters' careers are likely to end up. Thompson's play is well-constructed but it needed some new fireworks if it was going to have the same impact it did six years ago; this too-leisurely production doesn't provide them.

Roaring Trade by Steve Thompson is booking until the 24th of October at Park Theatre 200.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes including interval.

No comments:

Post a Comment