Reviews London TheatreReviewsWest End & Central Published 18 March 2016

Review: Run at New Diorama

New Diorama Theatre ⋄ 15th March – 9th April 2016

Engineer Theatre Collective’s new work is “full of posturing, privilege, and some really quite charming social awkwardness.”

Dave Fargnoli
Run at New Diorama.

Run at New Diorama.

In 2013, a young bank intern named Moritz Erhardt died after apparently putting in a 72 hour shift. A spokesperson for the major institution where he worked later said: ‘we are used to working with people who are ambitious and want to over-perform.’ His story forms a starting block for Engineer Theatre Collective, who set off at a sprint with this high-energy, high-speed skewering of the financial sector’s culture of risk versus reward.

Devised by the company in conversation with some of London’s ‘freshest financial minds’ – who have astutely chosen to remain anonymous – the play follows four interns’ formative experiences in the world of commodities trading. The development process shines through in brilliantly observed and utterly naturalistic dialogue, full of posturing, privilege, and some really quite charming social awkwardness. Anecdotes about hysterical boardroom breakdowns, Blackberries left in pubs, and all-night sessions fuelled by narcolepsy medication have that undeniable ring of truth about them. Depictions of a soul-crushing work environment are contrasted with the literally orgasmic levels of joy which accompany success, and enough scenes of material excess to at least partly explain the appeal of the lifestyle.

It might be hard to feel sympathy for bankers in general, but our protagonists are only pseudo-bankers, still in their larval phase, and still uncomfortable with the ruthlessness and extraordinary dedication their chosen career demands. While the characters are broadly stereotypical – the slacker getting ahead through nepotism, the fiercely-driven woman – they are all on distinct journeys, and each has a vulnerability which the cast take great care to explore. Charlotte Watson’s Caroline is the most complex, a former evangelical Christian finding a new faith in personal ambition, but Gabriella Margulies makes for an excellent, icy counterpoint as her closest competition.

It all plays out like a particularly savage episode of The Apprentice, or a much better, City- set version of one of those joyless movies where Jason Statham can’t sit still. Here, time is money, and every social interaction is an opportunity to gain the upper hand, leading to some glorious moments of underhanded back-stabbing. The serious subject matter is nicely offset by a streak of sly humour throughout, much of it communicated though strong movement work. Caroline crumples to the floor, too tired to undress for bed; Al Jarrett’s Lawrence clownishly thrashes around in the midst of a long-awaited outburst.

Co-Directors Jesse Fox and Simon Lyshon may have underused this Lecoq-inspired physicality, but they have successfully stripped each scene down to the barest minimum, offering a series of snappy vignettes that flick by at high speed. There is a fluidity, particularly evident in the scene changes, which contributes to the show’s sense of barely-suppressed momentum. Dominic Kennedy’s sound design builds on this energy with relentlessly ticking clocks and driving tribal beats, accelerating through the realms of euphoric club music and into panic inducing territory as events begin to get out of hand.

Equal parts smart, sensitive and excoriating, the play compellingly explores a world which may seem divorced from reality, but which nevertheless exerts a huge influence on society. Though highly-stylised and outright silly at times, this is an insightful examination of the ways individuals cope in a culture which sees everyone as competition.

Run is on at New Diorama until 9th April 2016. Click here for tickets.

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Dave Fargnoli is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: Run at New Diorama Show Info


Directed by Simon Lyshon, Jesse Fox

Written by Engineer Theatre Collective

Cast includes Al Jarret, Gabriella Margulies, Charlotte Watson, Joseph Sentance

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