You Can Still Make A Killing, Southwark Playhouse, London


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The Independent Culture

As sharp as the suits of its City traders, Nicholas Pierpan's new play trains its satiric, devilishly clued-up, yet ungloating gaze on the fall-out – emotional, familial, institutional – of the financial collapse of 2008.

It follows the intertwined fortunes of two long-time friends, both in their mid-thirties with high-maintenance wives, kids at private schools and colossal mortgages. 

When Lehman Brothers goes belly-up, Ben Lee's Jack exploits the crisis by buying low and selling high and shoots up the ladder at the hedge fund, First Brook Capital. By contrast, Lehman's broker Edward (superbly played by Tim Delap) is reduced to a round of degrading interviews and to haunting his local Starbucks in the hope of networking with some pampered mummy with the right connections.

Premiered in Matthew Dunster's well-acted, sleek and wide-angled production, the piece unfolds as a wily and wonderfully telling revenge play.

Edward, having risen through sheer will-power from a Croydon comprehensive to a 2:2 at Cambridge, is left with a massive chip on his shoulder by this career set-back. 

It seems as though he has found the ideal ethical retribution by taking a job with the Financial Regulations Authority and becoming the scourge of the ethos that ended up shafting him.

The play has some mordant, pointed fun with the ironies of the poacher using his insider knowledge to turn gamekeeper.  Edward is jokingly congratulated at his interview on being the hundredth Lehman's refugee to apply for a post. But he fits the bill: “This guy's got a third-rate degree from a first-rate university. He'll make a perfect civil servant”.

The tragedy is that while life improves with his new job – more time for his troubled children and his wife (Kellie Bright) who discovers that it is not a total trauma to move from Fulham to Acton  – Delap's compellingly conflicted Edward is still on the run from the humiliations of his own childhood. 

You feel for him as he smarts with rage at the snooty headmistress who refuses to compromise over late payment of fees and as he locks horns with FRA colleagues who insist that they are there merely to enforce rather morally fine-tune the rules. And you recoil from the stealthily monstrous way he retaliates. 

Over-long but shapely, this is a piece likely to cause a steep rise in the author's stock.

To Nov 3; 0207 407 0234