Ten short plays in two hours is the response of the Soho Theatre to the gathering financial crisis, all written quickly, rehearsed in just two weeks by directors Lisa Goldman and Esther Richardson and performed on a bare stage by a cast of five plus white rapper Maxwell Golden and solo artist Marisa Carnesky.
For the tattooed and lubricious Carnesky, best known for her spooky Ghost Train, times are hard: she is literally lying on a bed of nails, homeless. All she has left is a small palace, a doll’s house of knives into which she lures an audience volunteer before plunging in yards of cold steel; the old music hall trick assumes a bitter twist in these daggers of misfortune.
In Bola Agbaje’s opening salvo, it is defiantly announced that the world’s for sale and “everybody shops at Lidl,” while a more complex survey of industrial relations in Paula B Stanic’s 6 Minutes shows a fight for respect among the unemployed in a 1970s-style breakdown of trust and optimism.
The meatiest plays, by Ron McCants and the experienced Kay Adshead, close in on a pair of American coalminers (Ron Donachie and Edward Hughes) squashed like cockroaches while Mexicans take their jobs for half-wages; and a British scenario of fear, foreboding and violence in a brutalised underclass.
Such new political realities leave little room for intellectual wise-cracking -- stand by for that when David Hare’s newly announced The Power of Yes at the National in late September analyses how the banks went bust and “capitalism was replaced by a socialism that bailed out the rich alone” – but a two-part Song of the Square Mile by Steve Thompson and Rachel Dawson is a clever satirical low down on loan frenzy and accelerating panic.
Megan Barker’s Anaphylactic, brilliantly performed by Lara Pulver, is a wacky study in a Deal, No Deal television contestant winning a box of bees just when they are beginning to die out, while Jimmy Akimbola, recently Frantic Assembly’s Othello, is a smart and critical actor in Oladipo Agboluaje’s Set Piece on a spineless film project.