Trade

Debbie Tucker Green
Royal Shakespeare Company
Soho Theatre
(2006)

This is the tired critic's Nirvana. A 40-minute play is always welcome but a good one aspires to the heavenly.

Trade is the second play in the RSC's New Works season transferring to Soho from the Swan in Stratford. It demonstrates once again that Debbie Tucker Green, like Laura Wade whose Other Hands which predeceded it at Soho, is a strong young British playwright with an individual and memorable voice.

Trade is set on a Caribbean island conjured up by designer Miriam Buether's circular sandpit, revolving ever so slowly - about 0.05 revolutions per minute.

Viewed in traverse by a divided, voyeuristic audience, the play looks at three women making the most of the mind-expanding experience that long-distance travel can offer.

As the play develops, it becomes apparent that these three seemingly different women have one thing in common, a man. To one he is partner, to another faithful friend and defence against loneliness, and to the last a bit of fun.

Using sharp, naturalistic language Debbie Tucker Green and her talented Black cast, under the direction of Sasha Wares, colour in the bare bones of this unlikely trio. We see a local who apparently encourages her partner to supplement her income by playing the gigolo to two white women, each representing different aspects of their home country and its current attitudes.

Rather than names, they are given character types. Laura Brown is The Local, a beach hairdresser trying to make ends meet by offering local hairstyles to supposedly sophisticated (and rich) tourists.

Her two potential customers are sex tourists from opposite ends of the age and class scales. Tanya Moodie plays The Regular, an older woman who annually returns to the island for a fortnight's rest, recuperation and embarrassed sex.

The Novice (Nadine Marshall) is a brassy Londoner using her hard-earned pennies to make the most of life and unafraid of casual sex with the local hunks.

Trade may be a very short play but it is well worth a visit. It is intoxicating, containing constant shifts of power and alignment, as well as sharp insights and some raucous humour.

Philip Fisher