“The predictability of human desperation is incredible”
Set over a long night of the soul for the employees of a payday loans company, Kieran Lynn’s play The Trap is described as “a biting new comedy”. And for once, it does actually provide a fair few laughs, of the decidedly darkly comic sort, as it simultaneously shines an uncompromising light on the seedier end of capitalist society – the market for short-term loans and the predatory way in which the most-in-need are tempted in.
We open with Tom and Clem breaking into an office to steal money from a safe there, and it soon turns out that they are disgruntled employees trying to pull a fast one. But Lynn’s trick is to show how the perils of debt stretch far and wide and so they are eventually joined by branch manager Alan (gambling addict) and regional manager Meryl (mortgaged to the hilt) who are also searching for an quick route to assuage their financial woes.
At just 70 minutes and with its comic twist, The Trap isn’t a play that delves deeply into the issues it raises but ultimately that’s no bad thing. Meryl’s (the brilliant Wendy Kweh) messaging from head office touches on the despicable business practices, the metrics to identify the best times to target the desperate, and Tom (a well observed Jahvel Hall) and Clem (a sharply witty Sophie Guiver) exemplify the grinding depression of the rent trap, working all hours in a poorly paid job to barely afford to pay avaricious landlords.
Dan Ayling’s production has a keen eye on its comic timing and it also delineates the non-linear structure well, as we occasionally flash back to earlier in the day to see how this foursome have ended up where they have. Sarah Beaton’s beautifully detailed design makes effective use of the reconfigured space of the Omnibus’ auditorium and there’s wry fun to be had with the voice of a new-fangled alarm system that no-one can quite get the hang of. A diverting pleasure then, and if it doesn’t provide easy answers to the portrait of the broken society it provides, well that’s because there sure aren’t any.