Edinburgh Fringe 2011
It’s 2008 and Lehman Brothers has just imploded, tossing bankers into the ranks of the unemployed and the world into a financial meltdown that will remain with us for the rest of this decade. Over to our reporters Adam Paolozza and Ravi Jain for the latest news………..
The financial meltdown of the last three years has provided playwrights the world over with an almost inexhaustible supply of new material, characters and targets. Fringe 2009 saw a scattering of new works but the big growth has been over the past two years with a plethora of pieces, some factual, some fantasy and some just completely wide of the mark.
Quite where Spent fits into this spectrum, though, is curiously hard to fathom. It’s a tale featuring the multi-talented Adam Paolozza and Ravi Jain, both of whom hail from Toronto, that uses the Lehman’s implosion of 2008 as its centerpiece. Part documentary, part physical theatre, the piece attempts to assess the impact of the crash on those who lost their jobs in the bank and elsewhere whilst lambasting those in control who got to keep their (allegedly) ill-gotten gains.
Paolozza and Jain give mesmeric performances as global newscasters reporting on the impact of the crash, switching effortlessly between a bewildering stream of world-wide financial journalist stereotypes, often using local language in preference to business-speak English. Accents are totally authentic and simple expression and body movements enhance the differentiation. It’s all very effective and, in the case of the congressional investigation of Lehman’s erstwhile CEO Richard Fulds, uncannily real. These boys clearly have a talent for impersonation as well as characterisation.
The rolling newscast allows them to tell a story that is still, worryingly, either little understood by or of only passing interest to the majority of people. Their lampooning and satirical approach ram home once again that we’ve all been taken for a ride by the investment banking community whose motto seems to remain one of privatising their gains and socialising their losses, the classic heads they win, tails we lose scenario.
But this is where the whole thing starts to come apart. The Fulds interview, whilst technically accurate, went into economic detail that was probably way beyond the ken and interest of many of those present. And the mime sequences, with the notable exception of the opening piece featuring two job-hunting bankers, lacked cohesion, were in several instances over extended and in the case of Dominique Strauss-Khan potentially libellous.
It’s a pity as this duo undoubtedly have talent in both mime and theatre and this is a story that needs telling and then telling again until we all understand how we got screwed and how we can prevent it happening again. But there’s enough in this to make it worthwhile tracking down should if it ever tour near you now that its sell-out run here in Edinburgh is finished.