Friday, 26 April 2013

The Thing About Psychopaths

Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
3 stars
At first glance, Perth-born writer Ben Tagoe's new play for Leeds-based veterans Red Ladder looks like the sort of timely dissection of financial corruption that fuelled the likes of Lucy Prebble's hit, Enron. Rod Dixon's production opens with naïve computer whiz-kid Noel being courted by wheeler-dealer Ray to make some easy cash by investing other people's money in illegal ventures without them knowing. When he's found out, Noel takes the rap while Ray slithers his way towards the next fall guy.

We next see Noel in a prison cell, forced to share with bully boy Michael and father figure Emmanuel. Noel may be incarcerated, but he finds himself caught up in the same cycle as before, co-opted into a black economy not of his making until he finally sells his soul in order to survive.

While there are shades here of David Mamet's early play, Edmond, which also ends in a prison cell, it's not difficult to see Tagoe's point, that corporate capitalism can corrupt both in glossy office spaces and behind bars. As valid and pertinent as this is, it's all slightly awkward and overloaded in the telling, with the early office scenes in particular never quite ringing true.

Things work much better in the prison scenes, and you can't help but feel genuinely scared for Shaun Cowlishaw's Noel as he's brutalised by William Fox's Michael. What isn't clear in all this, however, is who exactly the psychopath here actually is. Noel, after all is just one more victim of a system he can't help be warped by. It's those who set the agenda who are really deranged.

The Herald, April 26th 2013


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