Review: Roaring Trade, Park Theatre

Take the plot of Glengarry Glenross, fast forward 25 years and change slightly the commodities being fought over (bonds instead of property), and you’ll have a good idea of what happens in Roaring Trade at the Park Theatre.  That’s not a criticism: I thoroughly enjoyed this play, but if you are familiar with David Mahmet’s work then you’ll recognise the themes on offer in this production. This play deals with the ugly side of capitalism, the mean and nasty, money-grabbing, back-stabbing side that knocks the little guy down, treads all over him then charges him for the privilege. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the Wharf, and nice guys (or girls) always finish last.

Nick Moran (of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels fame) excellently portrays Donny, a cockney trader seemingly in his prime, gambling millions on the stock market and making millions more. While over-the-hill drunk PJ (Michael McKell) spirals into an enforced early retirement, Lesley Harcourt’s Jess, who mostly runs rings around the boys, provides laughs and ruthlessness in equal measure. They are backed up by Timothy George’s Spoon, so called because the other characters believe he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the office new boy. The calibre of acting in this production is very high,  and all four leads create a believable and dangerous world that is abhorrent, yet hard to look away from.

Roaring Trade was first written and performed in 2009, and at the time was a neat response to the credit crunch. Despite being 6 years on, I still feel like this play is just as relevant as when it was first written. Can we honestly say that our situation and perception in regard to stock brokers and the banks is much different than the months after the crash? I think not. If you trade bonds for a living, do not go and watch this play. You will not leave feeling flattered.

My only slight quibble with the production was an under-utilised set. The entire back wall was paved with screens that I thought could have been used more effectively throughout the production, however they were ultimately downgraded to static changes demonstrating the three or four different locations throughout the play.  It was a shame, but I didn’t feel that it detracted from my enjoyment much.

I’d highly recommend this production: it’s funny, witty and allows you to leave the theatre feeling very superior to people who make in a week what most of us do in a year. It also very adequately explains the major ins-and-outs of stock trading, the basic concept if you will, so even those who are most ignorant of the practices of Canary Wharf (I include myself in that) will understand what’s going on. As a final selling point Sir Ian McKellen was in the audience, and seemed to be enjoying it, though I can’t promise he’ll be there every night. So if, like me, you value the opinion of Gandalf, go and see Roaring Trade. It’s a roaring success (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Roaring Trade is playing at Park Theatre until the 24 October. For more information and tickets, see the Park Theatre website. Photo by Robert Workman.