You Can Still Make A Killing
Southwark Playhouse

Nicholas Pierpan's morality tale watches the Masters of the Universe struggle to move on with their feet of clay following the Lehman Bros collapse.

Remember the man who walked out of Lehman Brothers bearing a box and a shell-shocked expression? This is his story. Sort of.

This is the story of all of them - what happened following those end-of-days in 2008: who won, who lost and the price they paid, in terms of kudos, yoga mats, lattes and souls.

Writer Nicholas Pierpan puts a human face to the Masters of the Universe, takes them home and makes them sheepishly explain their actions to their peevish wives.

He rips away the Gieves and Hawkes carapace and prods away at the raw nerves beneath seeing what stuff these men are made of, stripped of their expense accounts and their vacuous locker room brinkmanship.

Edward and Jack are old friends. Fidgety Jack (Ben Lee) was busy being a surgeon but was lured to the hothouses of Canary Wharf by posturing, pompous Edward, a chip-on-his-shoulder Croydon boy.

But the survival of the fittest demands swift acrobatic moral re-positioning.

So while Jack flourishes in his hard-bitten hedge fund, ousted Edward (Tim Delap) spitballs with prospects in Starbucks, sells the dream house and finally, at wit's end, joins the FRA (the fictitious FSA) where he plots his revenge against the System.

Their wives ride the same rollercoaster. Shrill Fen (Kellie Bright) abandons dreams of a third child and moves out to Acton, which might as well be Soweto until it becomes Nirvana; while sinuous Linda (Marianne Oldham) sucks up to the yummy mummies she hates. All want to conform, all want to be different.

Their fortunes change in ways that would reveal too much. (It is soapy fare, to be honest, with bombshells and declamations that don't ring true but move the plot along.)

All are despicable and honourable; all are false and honest. In short, they're human, simply reacting, shifting, settling and justifying.

Director Matthew Dunster fills the wide stage with lacquered desks and swivel chairs that become offices and coffee shops and schools while a uniformly robust cast offers plenty of treats and talent. (William Mannering as FRA foot soldier Chris nearly steals the show armed only with a bag of nuts.)

When the story of how art responded to the financial meltdown comes to be written, this smart play may only make a footnote but it does attempt a more ambitious reach than some of the more simplistic dialectic tracts.

Future versions will be shorter. Two hours 40 minutes doesn't suggest the fast-snap of a City on heat.

Instead it is a muffin-topped morality tale intent on capturing what happens when a combatant quits the trenches and is forced into no-man's-land.

- Until November 3,