REVIEW

 

Peter Crawleyreviews Love and Moneyat the Project in Dublin

“I felt power over money,” confesses a character in Dennis Kelly’s aggressive and darkly funny satire. That this power has stemmed from a shocking and reprehensible act of vandalism, yet still elicits a big laugh, tells you all you need to know about this play and these times. During a period of emergency budgets and collapsing markets, banking scandals and job losses, riots and revolutions, I think we know how he feels.

Hatch Theatre Company’s new production, which often looks as sleek and expensive as the consumer culture and credit packages it smashes, is achingly aware of its relevancy. Whether you currently have the stomach for a show about bad debt and human casualties – a warning message from 2006 that now smacks of post-mortem – there is something still riveting about how it is conveyed.

Beginning with an awkwardly tender e-mail exchange, nicely sustained as a monologue by Barry Ward’s telecoms salesman (do they still exist?) and gorgeously accentuated by Jack Phelan’s video design, the play shudders through a series of shocking revelations. Along a string of seemingly discrete episodes – a middle-aged couple’s direct audience address, a naturalistic job interview, an almost agit-prop group sequence, a fantastically absurd seduction scene in a hideous pub – the story is rationed out in reverse: how Ward’s David became a well-heeled wage slave, how his wife Jess (Kate Brennan) became a pathological shopaholic, how conspicuous consumption and easy credit got them – and us – into this mess.

Director Annabelle Comyn recognises a postmodern vehicle with old-fashioned values, letting the play simmer with allusions to Ravenhill, Pinter, Bond, Churchill et al, while giving it the disjointed amperage of a satirical sketch show. That grab-bag aesthetic, reviled by Marxists as the “the cultural logic of late capitalism”, is partly the point, and it gives a more invigorating condemnation of dehumanising systems than Kelly’s dialogue; most of it engaging, much of it overblown, leaving no joke or jolt under-stretched.

“To the hard of hearing you shout,” wrote Flannery O’Connor, and for the almost blind you draw large, startling figures. At a time when our senses have never been sharper, several characters here are brilliantly amusing but distorted into grotesque dimensions. Phil Kingston and Kate Nic Chonaonaigh are each astute, acridly hilarious and a blast to watch, but Ward and Brennan have a tougher challenge. Ward gets a masterful scene of torment, but hasn’t yet decided how to regulate a salesman’s confidence with a supplicant’s vulnerability. Brennan is typically excellent, despite a thinly sketched role, but when her uncomplicated high-street spender must conclude the play with a rumination on the universe, it’s like hearing a lecture on quantum physics from Posh Spice. Defusing the final conceit of an acidly satirical and unsettling play, her charming insouciance resembles a precious and scarce commodity; one you can’t find these days for love nor money.

Until May 9

Aidan Dunne’s visual arts column returns next week