Review by Kate Gaul
1978, New York. John Anderson emerges from college and grabs a job on Wall Street. His dreams of unimaginable wealth, travel and power are made a reality as he jets around the globe selling loans to developing countries eager to borrow. And there are plenty – Mexico, Brazil, Argentina…
But cracks in the banks’ excessive lending strategy soon start to show. Despite the warning signs - and their consciences - John and his colleagues continue to pursue their targets, threatening to leave them all financially, and morally, bankrupt.
In a freezing Flight Path theatre, a group of independent artists from Sydney ply their craft on this strange, often unengaging, play by English playwright Beth Steel. It might be that the play feels old now – a lot has happened in the Western world since it premiered in the UK in 2016: Brexit, Trump, Covid to name three.
The work flips between a kind of realism – men in offices with suits, roller chairs, desks and filing cabinets (direction and design by Margaret Thanos), lot of paper – and a ghostly fantasy scene, repeated, where John Anderson (Matt Abotomey) interacts with his fraudster father (Richard Cox). These interactions kind of foreshadow John’s downfall – and are perhaps the most successful scenes in this production. In the office scenes I noted the fine work of Tasha O’Brien and Rachel Colquhoun-Fairweather as the comic relief. Casting these women as men in the brutal world of the play felt like a meta-comment but I suspect all of that was a biproduct of having two actors who were up for the laugh. Whenever they appeared the play landed, was easy to hear and follow – something to do with a spoon full of sugar, perhaps?
In the greater ensemble (the cast is a total of 12) I noticed Diego Retamales, Edric Hong, and Lib Campbell, all doing great, supportive, and detailed work. The cast are generally working to the edges of their ability and digging deep for characterisation and nuance. The production requires several accents - if you want to go that way, and it did – Felicity Jurd did admirable work wrangling the vocal geography and in a more general vocal production was strong across the board.
The production is a series of swirling scene changes all directed with a military precision. It did feel like one long scene change as what happens in between the movement of desks, cabinets and people are short dramatic scenes. Orchestrating the dynamics of these big events – and yes, in this production the scene changes are major events – would give us time to catch our breath. Finding grace and ease comes with experience but I applaud the company for their confidence with this play. The labyrinth of high finance is echoed in the labyrinthine plot, stage movement and intricate humanity on display.
Big ups to lighting designer, Jas Borovsky for their support in indicating place and making some artful choices in this tricky venue; great work from fight choreographer (Diego Retamales) and movement director (Diana Paola Alvarado). It’s always great to see productions that utilise the range of craft and theatrical skills for actors. Theatre becomes a playground where anything is possible.
Image Credit: Clare Hawley