Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Particle physics, free market economics and a fundamental belief in the power of the audience’s imagination result in this slick, intelligent, funny and affecting one-man show from Nova Scotian company 2B theatre. This latecomer to the Fringe programme was written pre-credit crunch but its protagonist – a former stockbroker in the throes of a breakdown – speaks powerfully to today’s audience.
Theologian Mark Thompson has said that ‘perhaps the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the 21st century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music. It is found in a single photograph.’ He was referring to the now iconic image of the unknown man falling from the World Trade Centre – falling rather than jumping, that is, because jumping implies suicide rather than a choice between the pavement and the flames.
Freezing and expanding a single moment in time, Anthony Black’s one-man show for Nova Scotian company 2B Theatre also begins and ends with a jump that feels like a fall. A young American stockbroker (is his name Atom or Adam? both work) is pushed to despair by global economic forces, terrorist attacks and the burning wreckage of his family life smouldering behind him.
If that sounds just a little bit grim, it isn’t. Partly because the particle physics and free market economics of Isaac Newton and Adam Smith are intertwined so poetically in the finely tuned script. And partly because it’s very funny, incorporating a film noir pastiche (the man’s long lost father turns out to be a businessman-gangster – cue spotlit profile and the suggestion of a cigar), a taxi driver from ‘Autocratistan’, and a boss whose analogies for why the free market is the ultimate democracy are self-defeatingly violent.
For the viewer of this slickly physical show, the protagonist is the only element in his expertly blocked and lit world that isn’t invisible – apart from a book and a business card, which he plucks from the air with impressive sleight of hand.
This piece dates back to 2004. But to a post- credit crunch world where we feel in both moral and economic freefall, it now speaks even more loudly. The higher my salary the more in debt I became, he reflects. And if money makes the world go round, what happens when you decide to stop making it? We’re all falling, alright. It remains for you to decide whether you’re jumping or being pushed.