It's hard not to groan at the prospect of yet another exploration of financial machinations and City madness. Discussions of bond transactions don't generally make for a fun night out, especially as the current precarious economic situation doesn't seem to be getting any less depressing.
But Nicholas Pierpan's new play, You Can Still Make A Killing, grabs the subject and dissects it from the point of view of the players whose lives are being tossed about in the turbulence which, to a large extent, they have themselves created.
Jack (Ben Lee) and Edward (Tim Delap) are high-flying, high-earning traders, with high-spending wives and expensive houses in Fulham. Then Lehman's collapses and Edward's life goes into free-fall. With no job and few prospects, his only option is to frequent Starbucks in the hope of networking himself into a job. When the poacher turns gamekeeper by joining the government's regulatory authority, he seems to have found his calling. It takes a major conflict of interest to disrupt his new, less frenetic, life in down-market Acton.
Thankfully, Pierpan doesn't try too hard to explain the ins and outs of the various financial instruments used to manipulate the system, focusing instead on the individuals with keen dialogue and some well-observed humour. These are ordinary men and women corrupted by the relentless pursuit of the next big deal, and they're largely an unsympathetic bunch. Venal, self-absorbed, but fascinating, they have few scruples when it comes to making a packet. Only Edward's wife Fen (Kellie Bright) emerges with any integrity, discovering that life in Acton, albeit without shed-loads of money, can be happy and fulfilling.
Matthew Dunster directs with great flair, resulting in a production that is fast and furious and with top-notch performances from an all-round superb cast (which includes verbatim specialist Alecky Blythe as a smooth PA). The set is minimal, just a few tables and chairs setting the scenes. The slickly-choreographed scene-changes are a sheer joy to watch, keeping up the momentum of the see-sawing storyline.
But just as the financial crisis has gone on too long, so does You Can Still Make A Killing. Apart from this, it's a fabulous and insightful portrayal of just what went wrong and is still going pear-shaped in the financial markets, and the devastating effect this has on those working inside the system.