'Dry Powder' review

Theatre, Drama
2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

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Hayley Atwell stars in this ropey play about American financial markets

Like ‘Enron’ without the imagination or ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ without the point, Sarah Burgess’s play about a trio of fractious private equity fund managers contains some good one-liners but genuinely seems to have absolutely nothing substantive to say.

Rick’s fund is in trouble. That’s because it asset stripped a supermarket chain - and made hundreds of staff redundant - on the day that Rick (Aidan McArdle) threw himself a lavish birthday party involving a live elephant. They have been crucified in the press and the fund investors are looking nervous. But the bargain basement acquisition of a suitcase company with big plans could prove to be their saviour.

The entire play hinges - in often mind-boggling detail - on this deal. Rick has two partners giving him conflicting advice. Cold, robotic Jenny (Hayley Atwell) wants to dismantle the company for maximum profit. Smug, slick Seth (Tom Riley) has set up the suitcase deal and formed a bond with its CEO Jeff (Joseph Balderrama) who wants to grow the company and preserve all of its American jobs.

The interplay between the three fund managers is often very funny, especially Atwell, playing wildly against type as the acid-tongued, empathy-free Jenny.

But the play as a whole is one of the most unloveable pieces of theatre I can remember sitting through in a long time. I have absolutely no idea what point Burgess is trying to make: it’s surely either the very obvious one that finance people can be horribly amoral or something marginally more nuanced that involves Seth developing into a sort of vaguely tragic character in the final 15 minutes. Either way, it’s articulated so vacuously that it’s hard to take much away from it.

To all intents and purposes it’s a lightweight sitcom about a trio of sassy fund managers. Anna Ledwich’s laugh-focussed direction may possibly sell the play fractionally short. But Burgess is hardly the first to write about this world, and others have done so with infinitely more verve and imagination.

If you’re a card carrying fan of big name Hayley Atwell you’ll probably go home happy enough. But considering she’s much in demand, it’s a mystery as to why she’d want to invest her limited stage capital into this ropey endeavour.

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