Tricycle Theatre (London) ****
Self-interest, the truism that makes the world go round. Or is in the process of destroying it.
Two years ago, Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced presented itself at the Bush Theatre as a scorching examination of what it is to be Pakistani living in contemporary America, post 9/11.
A Pulitzer prize-winner, Akhtar now follows it up with another devastating critique of American society and the system underpinning it. The Invi$ible Hand – self interest, is the `invisible hand’ self-regulating the markets, Akhtar asserts – has particular resonance in the light of the 2008 financial and banking crash. Its setting may be ostensibly terrorist related. But Akhtar shows how the global arm of high finance reaches into the furthest corners of the planet, determining personal outcomes, wrecking lives.
Like Zola’s faceless behemoth, profit and the markets stalks the enclosed world of kidnapped banker, Nick Bright and his unnamed Pakistani terrorist group captors.
Imprisoned in his block breeze cell, Bright is offered one way out of execution: earn the $10million ransom money the group have placed on his head.
What a plot device! beautifully engineered by Akhtar through four distinctive characters playing off each other’s vulnerabilities until an explosive finale in which Bright gets more than his fingers burnt.
In the last production before the Tricycle undergoes a year’s refit, director Indhu Rubasingham produces a production of maximum fire-power, punctuating scenes with blinding light and roars simulating the American drones in constant circulation above.
But it is the drama below which takes the tightest hold in Lizzie Clachan’s realistic hideout: Daniel Lapaine’s prisoner fighting for his life through words and banking acumen; Parth Thakerar’s disillusioned and terrifying English Pakistani, spewing hatred and outrage but learning the lessons – and power – of banking and the market’s seductive appeal only too well from Bright; Tony Jayawardena’s commanding Imam alert to capitalism – `I believe that money is the opiate of the people, not religion’ – but ultimately swept away by its Darwinian grip; and Sid Sagar’s Dar, a young local fighter who also becomes tainted by Mammon.
Brilliant stuff, Akhtar lays into the American dollar and capitalism in a way not seen since early Mamet. Highly recommended.
The Invi$ible Hand is at the Tricycle Theatre to July 2, 2016