A banker you can almost feel bad for: unprecedented in this day and age. But it’s in the murky, stomach-churning “almost” of that sentence that Andy Duffy’s new play Crash makes its mark.Duffy crafts a monologue from inside the mind of a trader who has experienced a recent tragedy. As this nameless man (Jamie Michie) tries to rebuild his life we find ourselves drawn into questions of what exactly is he responsible for. How does the mind put itself back together after it has been damaged? Is grief a defense or an excuse?
This man is trying to exude external calm all the while he is awash in internal turmoil. He smooths his hair and tugs at his suit to make things look just right. These tics feel like one of the few things he can control and so over and over again he centers himself and presents himself to us again. Trading is about confidence, perception, and having the stomach to do what needs to be done. But as he explains, “the nervous system wasn’t evolved for the stock market.”
The play twists your guts alongside the trader’s. Between the personal and the professional, this man is pushing himself (and us along with him). Duffy constructs a character that well-suited to luring you in. He has suffered something unimaginable. He’s anguished. He cries. And yet, can his character ever be trusted? Even he says at the start, “you can trick yourself. Tell yourself some story. Your mind does the rest….Soon you can’t tell your story from the truth.”
Michie brings a child-like innocence to a character who you would least suspect as faultless. His gestures and presence suggest self-doubt and contrition. He lays out his story to us in such a way that it feels as if he’s asking us to help him make sense of things. Michie’sperformance sells this complex character full of contradictions, making such cognitive dissonance disappear through his delivery.
The pleasure here is in the dizzying way in which Duffy peels back the layers on this character (and Michie executes these choices). It feels with each thing we learn about him, the more slippery he becomes.
Duffy and director Emma Callander maintain that tension throughout. Michie is largely stationary and seated in the play, but in certain moments, the lighting changes or he moves from his chair, and suddenly he unleashes a tidal wave of emotion (the discordant sound design adds to this increasing undercurrent of anxiety). After sequences like these, you may find yourself trying to take deep-breaths alongside the trader who has turned to meditation to help him calm his mind.
Once your breathing returns to normal, Crash may leave you questioning everything.