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June 27, 2012 5:35 pm
Dominic Savage’s debut stage play explores interesting and topical territory: by focusing on a brutal exchange between a young street robber and a wealthy investment banker, he homes in on the role money plays in today’s Britain. When the banker tells the mugger “we’re the same”, he is suggesting that both are driven by an acquisitive urge. The problem with the play, though, is that rather than open up a subtle investigation of contemporary priorities and values and their impact on a deeply divided society, it stops at this rather basic level. And while it is driven by urgency – and a tremendous performance from Aymen Hamdouchi as the alienated young robber – it is too skimpily characterised to hit home.
Takis’s simple, effective set of a white bed, table and chairs doubles up neatly for the two sorts of London that Savage (an award-winning film-maker and writer-director of the recent BBC series True Love) depicts. In one London, Gerald (Rupert Evans, crisp as his white shirt) rises early, swigs black coffee, checks his Blackberry obsessively and absent-mindedly soothes his pregnant wife’s fretting. In the other London, Kieran rises late, broods, and parries his mother’s demands that he goes job-seeking – in fact his plan is some high-end mugging, along with his apprentice Jason (Jason Maza), targeting wealthy City types for the best watches, shoes, bags and phones. The play is at its best and most disturbing when Kieran, with unerring precision, sizes up in seconds how much a man is worth, and when he spills out his rage, jealousy and hatred of his targets. Hamdouchi brings an alarming volatility to the part and Savage stages the fateful encounter between Gerald and the two muggers with real menace.
But it is in the domestic scenes that the play stalls: some of the dialogue here is peculiarly wooden and the relationships feel undernourished, particularly that between Gerald and Amanda (Louise Delamere). Kieran’s Mum is also very thinly drawn. Small but niggling details get in the way – when Kieran is finally thrown out of home, where does he go? If he is so successful at robbing, what is he doing with the money? And once the attack has happened, the change of heart in both perpetrator and victim feels desirable but unconvincing. The play touches on some big questions for contemporary society but frustratingly doesn’t get very far in addressing them.
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