BWW Reviews: THE PINSTRIPE TRILOGY, Theatre Delicatessen at Marylebone Gardens, February 7 2013
The Matador, his bull market as dead as the real bulls slain in the arena, tells us of his high life - the cars and the coke, the girls and the gadgets, the cash and the champers. He revels in the sordid decadence of the pre-Lehmann Brothers collapse financial services industry - of how he magically parcelled up debt here, to sell it there, before buying it back again here and selling it again there. We don't understand it - but neither does he.
Then it all turns to dust - the dust of the empty office in which we stand with him. But here's the twist - he doesn't blame himself and castigates us for blaming him! It's us who wanted the goodies of early 21st century global consumerism and it's us that piled the debt on to the cards to get it. He's right - well, half right.
Setting the pace in the first of The Lab Collective's three short plays, Neil Connolly works well with the audience, but doesn't quite convince as the banker. His voice has the comforting Irish brogue of easy listening radio rather than the bark of the East End barrowboy on the make or the bray of the Hooray Henry with an overbearing sense of entitlement. He's a long way away from being London's Patrick Bateman - I think we like him more than we should.
The Beancounter (Mark Fairclough) interrogates one lucky member of the audience about their tax return. With something of the Yellow Submarine's Nowhere Man about him, he's initially an unsympathetic character - a tax inspector with a fastidious approach to his work. But he has a mission - to explain why tax is good and how it could be fairer and simpler for the man and woman in the street. The humour is more upfront in this play, but the message doesn't quite convince (google Steve Forbes and flat tax to find out why).
In Trust Fund, we are ushered into the kind of environment in which you are sold a time share in Marbella - but this time, the closer is flogging a share in the future earnings of a child. All we have to do is front the money for the talented kid's education - a wait for our ROI to come rolling in.
This felt the least worked through of the plays, its satire not really working, as the premise is not far away from how football clubs nurture young talent (Lionel Messi for one), nor how the state (through post code or selection) directs resources to some schools, but not others. Of course, the egregious sales pitch (from a hideously focused CEO, Emma Britton) and the privatisation of the investment opportunity, is where the black comedy resides. But , possibly due to some technical hitches on the night, Trust Fund's bite felt a little muzzled, despite Matthew Haigh's reality check and fatal attractionin the denouement.
As a trilogy, the plays work well together (trilogies are a pleasing format, aren't they?) and the audience interaction is never forced. I expect the performances will sharpen over the run and I'd be very interested in seeing if a banker or two talks back one night - now that would add a dimension to what is already an interesting and amusing take on how we got to where we are.
The Pinstripe Trilogy is at Marylebone Gardens until 23 February.
Photo: Lorna Palmer