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.