If you were to take a quick survey of the most hated professions in the UK, I would imagine that high on that list, along with estate agents and recruitment consultants would come Bankers. Now I’m sure that there are some very nice bankers out there but I wouldn’t recommend it as a career for anyone that was hoping to retain the love and respect of their family and friends. Having said that every year, thousands of people apply to join the profession and in Engineer Theatre’s production Run at the New Diorama Theatre, we follow four of them on their 10 week journey as interns at a major commercial bank.
The play starts by introducing us to the four ‘lucky’ interns joining the bank. First up, there is Caroline (Charlotte Watson) who we see being interviewed by an unseen voice who asks questions both simple and tricky – such as the very intriguing “Tails problem”. We next meet Tim (Joseph Sentance) a young northern lad trying to convince his mother that he isn’t going to be mugged/robbed/raped/spat on/etc now that he has moved to London. After Tim, it’s Lawrence (Al Jarrett) bit of a silver spoon type with an uncle working in the bank who, thanks to the power of social media, is temporarily sharing a flat with Caroline. Finally we get to meet Ana (Gabriella Margulies). These four have done what thousands failed to do and made it onto the internship programme and each of them is determined to do whatever they need to in order to secure the offer of a permanent job at the end. As the audience lives the 10 week journey with them, we get to see the pressures they are under – both personal and professional – as they leave family and friends until finally each of them must decide how far they are willing to go and how much are they willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of their goal.
Run is a really powerful play from the outset. It has been put together by Engineer Theatre and is based on conversations with people who have been through various bank’s programmes so is highly and scarily realistic from the start. Personally, I wouldn’t have got through the interview. It is interesting that despite all the advances in society, banking still seems to still have a very macho, laddish culture about it – even among the ladies – and this really came out in this very well observed piece.
Unusually, the play is listed as having three Directors – Jesse Fox, Simon Lyshon and George Evans – but you don’t get the feeling watching it that separate people have directed different scenes as everything flows together nicely. At the start, I had an internal bet with myself as to who would be the first to crack and was pleased to be right, though my internal bet on the ending proved wrong in pretty much every way. The play is performed in the round which, to my mind, was a bit of a mistake as there were times when the actors had their backs to part of the audience and personally I think it would have been more effective on an end stage with the audience on three sides. However, I’m not the Director and the staging wasn’t that much of a distraction.
Full credit to the cast who did a sterling job bringing their respective characters to life. I especially want to single out Joseph Sentance who managed to make me loath Lawrence within a few seconds of his first appearance right the way through the production until near the end when I actually felt sorry for him for a few seconds. Having said that, all four actors were really strong in their roles and, having once having worked in a bar where the ‘suits’ came to unwind on a Friday night, I can confirm the cast’s performance was spot on, in fact a little restrained to the way real ‘bankers’ act when tanked up. All of the performances were great and my favourite scene was the one in the elevator with Caroline and Ana which was played to perfection by the two ladies.
With a running time of around 80 minutes Run is the right length to get to know and understand the four interns and what makes them tick, although for some of them that changes over the course of their internship. It is a realistic and sad indictment of the banking culture that still prevails, suggesting that the crash of 2008 was merely a blip on the highway rather than a chance to change for the better. The realism of Run is the most depressing thing about this terrifically written and presented play which should be shown as a warning to anyone even marginally considering a future in the banking industry.
Review by Terry Eastham
To what lengths would you go to get the job of your dreams?
Four ambitious twenty somethings enter the job market. What better way to start than a summer internship at a high end City bank? Motivated and hungry, they are ready to commit themselves, whatever it takes. The stakes are high.
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Developed in conversation with the freshest financial minds and inspired by the true story of Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern who died at his London flat after reportedly working 72 hours straight, RUN is a blackly comic and tragic tale of ambition and personal sacrifice.
Blending striking physicality, sound and contemporary design, award-winning theatre company Engineer Theatre Collective have connected directly with the world of finance to expose the glamour and grind of the Square Mile in 2016.
This production is supported by the New Diorama Emerging Companies Fund and the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation. Developed through Fuel’s Jerwood Residencies at Cove Park which are supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.
Images credit Richard Davenport:
Tues 15 March – Sat 9 April 19:30