And if you look beyond the acronyms and absence of glamour it makes sense -- years of economic unrest have left people keen to understand and examine quite how the fiscal world revolves. And the losses, gambles and gains are replete with drama.
In Beth Steel's new play at the Hampstead Theatre the focus is specifically the Latin American financial crash of the 70s. But like the crop of other narratives around the banking industry this is a horror story, propelled by a select elite of white men, with one troubled soul as perpetrator and victim.
John (Sean Delaney) is a young man with a chip on his shoulder and the odds stacked against him. Banking is a way to make a 'pile of money' and with it win respect. So, in the fast-growing world of foreign loans and under the guidance of the bullish Charlie, he milks low interest rates to coax Mexico, Brazil and Argentina into borrowing more and more money. The atmosphere is authentically testosterone-soaked, though the standout performance comes from Elena Saurel as a shrewd female financial journalist.
The endpoint is obvious even to those (like us) with minimal knowledge of the ins and outs of American interest rates. But watching it pan out -- through John's initial moral uncertainty, via the sex, drugs and ego boost of vast profits through the nervous breakdown and economic crash -- feels like an economics lecture trying to be edgy. The research and communication of the history is spot on; but there is a wearisome sense of lesson.
When a South American barman tells the story of the miraculous abundance of fish that preceded a tsunami, the metaphor feels tired and predictable. And despite energetic performances the dialogue and dynamic between the characters can be cheesy and lifeless. Even with flashing lights, blackouts and slips into surreal choreography, the play feels longer than its two and half hours.
The final message is clear, but then it was always going to be. Contemporary parallels ring loud. Even in theatre nestled between the Swiss Cottage, Hampstead and St Johns Wood, the land of well-heeled Corporate commuters, the audience are united in their exasperation against the system. Few, however, seem moved by the particular characters.
Ultimately Labyrinth is as interesting as you'd expect a story centred on the banking industry to be -- it's just that we've been spoilt recently with blockbuster films that shape the excess and recklessness with real humanity.
|What||Labyrinth, Hampstead Theatre review|
|Where||Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, London, NW3 3EU | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Swiss Cottage (underground)|
01 Sep 16 – 08 Oct 16, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Hampstead Theatre|