The performance area for The Trap is, at first glance, slightly problematic. It’s so wide that there are there’s the inevitable turning of heads from most vantage points in what is (from past experience) a flexible space. The seating configuration differs at the Omnibus Theatre from production to production, and here, it’s only once the show starts that a realisation dawned on me that this particular set-up is highly realistic.
It may even be a tad uncomfortable, with the fluorescent strip lighting of this branch of Debt Duck, a payday loans company with a high street presence. It exposes members of the audience to one another – the audience is sat on three sides of the stage. While there are sound purposes in the narrative for the strip lights being turned off for some scenes, it helped to create an atmosphere of audience complicity. What goes on in this office stays in this office, and I felt like a proverbial fly on the wall observing some ultimately comical proceedings.
It does, fortunately or unfortunately, get a little over-elaborate in its exposition of why Tom (Jahvel Hall) and Clem (Sophie Guiver) are trying to accomplish their plan of action. Both sides of the argument are, to the show’s credit, argued with validity. At the heart of the discussion is a question of ethics and morals – which, this being the financial services industry, is arguably an absurd discussion to even have. Tom is a principled person, however – and so is Clem, in her own way, and they stick to their (often-but- not-always opposing) guns, much to the chagrin of their branch manager, Alan (Andrew Macbean). He ends up knowingly confused as to what is going on.
The same cannot be said, thankfully, for the audience. A satirical thread runs through this single-act play. Rather like the office cleaner whose own home is untidy, or the hospital matron who smokes a whole pack of cigarettes each day, there’s something deeply ironic about people who work for a loans company, including regional manager Meryl (Wendy Kweh), being in financial difficulties for one reason or another.
This is a highly perceptive play, with the behaviours of government, consumers and businesses all under scrutiny, without being preachy. Clem’s elaborate plans, divided into ‘phases’, become impossible to carry out (as Harold Macmillan may or may not have said, “Events, dear boy, events”), and it’s not difficult to see the imagery between that and, say, a political party’s General Election manifesto. The winning party’s mandate is only ever partially delivered.
The said events that play out are not presented in chronological order, but with a small cast, matters are not made unnecessarily complicated, at least not to any significant degree. The play does end rather abruptly, leaving the audience to ponder for themselves what happens to the characters. The script (Kieran Lynn) doesn’t take itself too seriously: at one point, one character says to another, “I know you like your metaphors,” and the putdowns are pretty punchy. An example – Meryl tells her colleague, “Your shop is in the middle of skid row and you couldn’t sell payday loans, Alan. You’ve spent years in a barrel full of tits and all you’ve done is suck your thumb.”
There are moments when the action starts to drag. But goodness me, the acting is good. Andrew Macbean’s Alan was the stand out performance for me, palpably disturbed both by personal circumstances and changes affecting Debt Duck as a whole. Even when he struggles with a temperamental security alarm (voiced by Daphne Kouma), the frustration is extraordinarily convincing. Overall, this is a sharp and insightful play, enjoyable and acerbic in equal measure.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“Welcome to The Debt Duck – the UK’s premier payday loans company”
Tom and Clem are deep in debt. Alan, Tom’s boss, owes big bucks. Meryl, Alan’s manager, is mortgaged to the hilt. When The Debt Duck’s owner liquidates the company and retires to his luxury chalet, Tom, Clem, Alan and Meryl each decide to crack the safe, steal some cash and put an end to their financial woes.
But will they break the cycle of debt? Or is this just another terrible trap? From the author of An Incident at the Border, comes a biting new comedy about the financial perils of a capitalist world.
Tue 31 Oct – Sun 19 Nov 2017
For ages 14+
1 Clapham Common Northside SW4 0QW