“It takes a certain kind of person to work in the city”
Nicholas Pierpan has looked previously at the financial sector before in his monologue The Maddening Rain, but in his new play You Can Still Make A Killing which is now coming to the end of its run at the Southwark Playhouse, his focus pulls out much wider than the impact on just one man. Edward and Jack were both traders at Lehman Brothers but their lives took significantly different turns after the company collapsed as the crisis in financial systems across the world began to really bite.
With too much invested in the firm, Edward’s world falls apart and he is left hanging around hopelessly in his old Starbucks, trying to wheedle his way back in through overheard gossip and tips from former colleagues. He eventually gets a job, but at the Financial Regulations Authority (the FSA by any other name), investigating the very nefarious practices that he himself had been involved in and soon the name of his old friend Jack pops up. For Jack managed to somehow keep his plates spinning in the air and kept his job, as ever more inventive ways of bending the system become necessary.
But as with so much about the financial system, it’s not even as simple as that. The trajectories of the men are not fixed but are somehow inextricably linked and so as one rises, the other must fall and Pierpan manages to continually pull our sympathies in one way and then another as the murkily complex interactions and interweavings of this world play out. He matches the stories of the men with the experiences of their wives and children too, demonstrating the impact on their families, but also the influence that people allow status to have over every aspect of their life.
It all sounds quite worthy stuff and there is a slight sense of overextension that creeps into the second half where director Matthew Dunster might have been better served to trim and tauten affairs. But it is highly impressive in its refusal to shirk from the ruthlessness that (still) dominates this industry even after everything that has happened and it looks visually impressive on the wide thin stage with a fluid stylishness keeping the pace tidy.
And there’s a sharp sense of humour that permeates the script even as the jaw drops at the audaciousness with which these bankers behave. Tim Delap and Ben Lee swagger excellently with their unique takes on morality, Kellie Bright and Marianne Oldham make the wives’ tribulations as engaging as their husbands and Will Mannering’s Chris has a scene-stealing sense of humour that altogether makes this a definite must-see before the end of the weekend.