The Space Arts Centre is as good a place as any to put on a show like Dare To Do – The Bear Maxim, showing sheer contrasts in how the other half live. The immediate surroundings in the Isle of Dogs are far from shabby, but just a short bus ride away, or a long walk for anyone up for it, are the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, gleaming and glistening both inside and out. Bear Hartington (Jaye Ella-Ruth), son of adoptive parents unimaginatively called Mum (Carol Morgan) and Dad (Bruce Kitchener) believed he found his place, work-wise, at a firm called Ogilvy, Johnson and Strang – a financial services firm apparently dealing in “deal options”, “futures” and “derivatives”. I won’t bore you with explanations if you are already familiar with those terms, and if you aren’t, rest assured, there’s no need to be in order to understand what goes on in the play.
Bear, then, is merely short for ‘Beresford’; my initial thoughts on ‘bear markets’ and a possible metaphor of carrying the proverbial weight of someone at work operating below par came to nothing. But In any case, it’s clear that it takes a certain type of personality and temperament to make it in the highly pressured international headquarters environments of financial services firms. I worked in a corporate organisation for a couple of years, and the place was as ruthless as plays like this would have audiences believe: let’s just say the staff turnover was what it was because it wasn’t a pleasant place to be.
In the legal and financial sectors, however, it’s even worse, as Dare To Do demonstrates – to a point. There’s a reason why such offices are kitted out with cafes and gyms, and for the more innovative companies, sleeping pods for ‘power naps’. As it was explained to me at an interview at a law firm (for a job I didn’t get), access to private medical treatment is available; a private GP will show up at the office and staff are able to have a consultation without having to leave the office. Such perks are there because of the number of hours staff are required to work.
In this play, much of the narrative is taken up with what Bear gets up to outside of the work. His relationship with Melanie (Rachel Summers) is well-developed, and the interventions of her father, listed in the dramatis personae merely as Minister (Simon Blake), make it very clear that the words ‘for richer, for poorer’ in the traditional marriage service liturgy do not apply as far as the father is concerned.
Some social commentary is useful to the play, though this too could have been better exploited if the legal proceedings resulting from Bear’s activities were included in the narrative. There are hints of a court case in the voiceover, but some dramatization of legal proceedings would have been good to see. The personal details and circumstances of Bear’s life would, I suspect, have come out under cross-examination, for instance. Instead, there’s another incident, one even more critical than what the show’s programme calls “the biggest loss in British banking history”.
A few lines were spoken too quickly, lessening the emotional punch that there might have been if the words were given the opportunity to breathe. The dialogue is sometimes poetic, with rhyming couplets. It may have been intentional, but the play becomes just as much about the social structures (or rather, the lack of them) in contemporary society than it does about organisational culture in the corporate world. While the blind casting across the board is rather impressive, the play needs to be more focused – what is it really trying to say to its audiences?
Review by Chris Comaweng
The Play, DARE TO DO (The Bear Maxim) is loosely based on the true story of Kweku Adoboli, the trader who, in 2012 was convicted of accruing the largest trading loss in British history.
Ka Zimba Theatre aims to tell authentic stories of contemporary Britain that reaches across cultural lines, encouraging young people to explore the society in which they live. The company was formed by Jeffery Kissoon as a space for experimentation and training in theatrical expression inspired by the ancient African martial art form of Ka Zimba.
Ka Zimba Theatre & The Space presents
the World Premier of Dare To Do (The Bear Maxim)
Written by Mark Norfolk
Directed by Jeffery Kissoon
Designed by Alfie Heywood
Lighting, Video and Sound design by Chuma Emombolu
Music composed by Sebastian Russell
The Space is located at 269 Westferry Road, E14 3RS