Playground, a creative work in progress, is an intense observation of the life of four young traders in the City’s financial square mile.   

The piece was conceived this March, during regular Workshop Collective sessions at The Cockpit, and led to a 15 minute scratch performance at Theatre In The Pound. This longer version is a development of that initiative, and has involved the creative team watching and researching young male traders at work and play, in London’s Financial Mile. The title of the show cleverly sums up that the City as a cruel playground, where grown-up children continue to bully, cheat and break all of the rules of morality to get what they want. This is a greedy, soul-destroying monster that chews up and spits out those traders who struggle to survive.

With collaboration from Olivia Rose, the piece has been written and adapted by the four main actors of the piece - Dinarte Gouveia, Mat Ingram, Harry Lobek and Kyle Ross. The result is impressive, and this highly relevant work effectively captures the high octane, ruthless environment of London’s financial hub.

The play’s characters align with the City stereotypes that we often see in the media. There is the sex obsessed posh one, the bitchy career destroyer, the wide boy with a bit of a conscience, and the psychotic fantasist who dreams of killing his colleagues, but is finally revealed as the vulnerable office whipping boy.

The strength of the piece is in the collective writing, which is well supported by focused direction from Olivia Rose. There are committed performances by the actors. And with just a table, a chair and basic lighting effects, it is raw theatre at it’s best.

However, accepting that it is work in progress, it is inevitably not without it’s flaws. The play is an relentless onslaught of cynicism and negativity, and by the end of the unbroken hour and fifteen minutes, I began almost to feel as burnt out as any failing trader. A break would have been welcome. Played mostly at breakneck speed, I imagine to capture the intensity of the market floor, the play is not given time to breathe, and in the process it loses any light and shade. It felt like the actors were trying to squeeze in a lot of material into a short time, resulting in generally broad characters with few levels.

Despite these growing pains, the piece has firm foundations and great potential. It would be interesting to return to the Playground at a later date, and see how this very worthy work has developed.

PlayGround, at The Cockpit TheatreOliver Valentine reviews PlayGround at the Cockpit Theatre.3