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Review: Trust (Gate Theatre)

Jude Christian directs the adaptation of Falk Richter's play, originally written in German

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Right now as you read this, director Jude Christian is living inside the Gate Theatre. Mixing performance space and personal space, we enter the venue to see what almost feels like a bohemian dream – her clothes, her bicycle, her small ornate desk all stowed up in a corner but very much visible. As the show unfurls, you feel as though it's all taking place inside her inner sanctum. The artist forming a relationship to the space in which art is being made.

Because Trust is a play all about relationships. Loving monogamous relationships, they say, are built on trust. So too are international financial systems. Lose the trust in either and they'll fall apart – leaving a bit of a mess to clean up afterwards. Maybe it's safer to just stick together and ride through the hardships because we won't know how to deal with the mess that comes afterwards.

It's easy to see the thrumming satire that underpins German playwright Falk Richter's piece, originally written in 2009 (a direct reaction to the economic crash and whisperings of the decline of capitalism) and now appearing in a new English translation by Maja Zade. The show is performed by the director alongside Pia Laborde Noguez and Zephryn Taitte, the latter pair flitting between a variety of roles, including the cursed couple on the verge of collapse.

Sometimes the scenes are about the gradually declining domestic pair (have they been together for 14 years, or three weeks?), other times they're about the spending billions of dollars in a careless act of frivolity. Trust runs as a series of individual sequences, played out across a lengthy, narrow stage at the Gate – each sequence styled like a separate museum exhibit, slowly chronicling a rapidly collapsing sense of trust, either between the two individuals or of a global ecosystem. As Bethany Wells' design is filled with more and more paraphernalia, finance and fornication don't feel too far removed from one another.

Zade's translation keeps the formlessness of Richter's original, lines rarely divided up into characters or scenes, playing instead like some stream of consciousness. In that sense, Christian's staging feels like it makes a solid attempt at creating something cogent out of a text that deliberately tries not to be. There are dog masks, robotic hoovers, marriage proposals and a floor littered with Rice Krispies. The production is off-the-wall and laced with surreality, but that's exactly as much as you'd expect from a director who not too long ago created a one-man, two-piglet stage show.

Putting her Lyric Hammersmith panto experience to good use, Christian gives the play a few notably fun beats that spice the play up with some levity, and as a performer has a sage stage presence – her monologues about the decline and fall of the capitalist empire are accessible, even for those who failed their GCSE Maths.

But, spread thinly over 100 minutes, the play spins itself around without ever seeming to progress. A lot of what we see onstage doesn't make sense, an apt reflection of our complex financial systems, which one level feel like leviathans of senselessness. But the piece seems to confound to a point of tedium, undercutting what is a thriving and intriguing debate with lengthy, inexplicably stilted segments (a yoga exercise, played out in full, was very stifling). There are neat, caustic points being made in Trust, but they feel much more interesting to chew on in retrospect, once we've left Christian's humble abode.

Trust runs at the Gate Theatre until 17 March.

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