Andy Duffy’s new one-man play is a psychological drama following the life of a stock market trader during the economic crash. The central character narrates as both his personal and his professional lives experience colossal highs and tragic lows, not least the literal car crash with which the play opens.
In all, this is a very thoughtful piece of theatre that deals with complex issues without ever falling into the trap of allowing them to dominate.
This is a play of elegant parallels. The character’s cynicism about his wife’s spiritualism presents a valuable contrast with the way he talks about his own work—it’s all about “instinct”, apparently, but you can’t let the punters know that. Ultimately, the character's personal life as a whole operates as a metaphor for his professional conduct. While there is something potentially a bit dry about the stock market as a topic for theatre, by presenting us with a metaphor alongside it, Duffy allows us to gain an emotional understanding of the consequences.
Duffy’s use of parallels allows the presentation of the character to be very subtle. He is clearly an unstable and dangerous man, but while the play shows how someone like that can thrive in our society, it does it without being crude enough to present him as an outright psychopath. This subtle characterisation is aided in no small part by Jamie Michie’s performance. He presents us with a man who is at first glance a very ordinary bloke –of average intelligence, fairly selfish, not particularly charismatic –but Michie gradually allows us to see something rather more unsavoury in him too.
Director Emma Callander even makes valiant attempts to render the character somewhat sympathetic; there’s a particularly effective moment early on when we see the character's face change when he says his wife’s name. That moment of tenderness, squeezed out of the text as it is, adds a welcome depth to what happens later. Unfortunately, the text doesn't leave room for more than a few moments like this, and we are left uncertain as to what on earth his wife sees in him.
Andy Cowan's sound design is particularly worthy of note. His use of abstract noise is perfectly in tune with David Thomson’s lighting and, between them, they are responsible for a great deal of the impressively unsettling atmosphere. The whole tone of the play –from the minimal set to the vaguely funereal costume to the fact that it's a one man show –is one of understatement, and the production is impressively holistic in this.
In all, this is a very thoughtful piece of theatre that deals with complex issues without ever falling into the trap of allowing them to dominate. It remains a sophisticated piece of theatre with social commentary blended effortlessly into it.