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A CurtainUp London Review
Although Roaring Trade is set in the marketplace, it is the story of four traders. Donny is the top dog at McSorleys, a large City investment bank, a Cockney wide boy, fast and astute. Jess (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is the posh bird who uses her sexual attraction to lure hesitant clients into deals. P.J. (Nicolas Tennant) is the old hand at 40, with an avaricious wife (Susan Vidler) and daughters, who is paying for a large house which he never gets time to relax in. These three form the existing traders and are joined by Oxford graduate and Old Etonian, Spoon (Christian Roe), so called because Donny determines he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. The rivalry between Donny and Spoon forms the dynamic of the play. Spoon is the nicely brought up boy who plays dirty against the rules of the City brokerage business, rules adhered to by scoundrels.
The opening scene is a ghastly initiation rite for pretend new boy Donny in a mock interview with Jess, which isn't all it appears to be, but sets the tone for outrage and black comedy. It is P.J. who shows us what happens to burnt out traders at 40 as he desperately tries to maintain the high living lifestyle which his parasitic wife demands. At the other end of the age range we see Sean, Donny's son quickly catching on to the spirit of capitalism by ripping off his grandmother by selling her pictures he has supposedly painted. In this scene Thompson shows us the inevitability of people's desire to make money at the expense of even those who should be close to them.
Roxana Silbert directs for Paines Plough, a theatre company which exists to encourage emergent theatre writing. The modern office set has detailed screens showing the latest price and movements in the market and loud rock music features between scenes. The performances are excellent but it is Andrew Scott's Donny which will stay with you as he manages to combine the swagger of the successful dealer with ultimate vulnerability and sticking to the rules. Andrew Scott gives Donny a high pitched Estuary whine in this starring performance. Elegantly suited and high heeled, Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Jess looks out for herself and manages to survive. Christian Roe as Spoon displays all the arrogance of his birth right and Nicolas Tennant as P.J. becomes visibly more hunched, caught in the impossibly downward career spiral with his deeply unsympathetic wife.
Steve Thompson's latest play has great comedy underpinned with pain. Of course it was written before the real pain of the recession started to bite and trading jobs were lost in their hundreds so we may expect more plays about the crash.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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