Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Here's a turn-up for the books - a good, solid play featuring a whacking big scarlet sofa centre stage and big moral debate. Here's the publicity blurb for Crash:
Nick (Colin Mace) - Securities Trader for Goldman Sachs and collector of art. Humphrey (Steven Pacey) - an artist with ethics and a cheque he's not sure he should cash. Christine (Carolyn Backhouse) - the beautiful girl they both loved, but Humphrey married. All together again, in Nick's Elizabethan mansion, getting ready to celebrate the unveiling of a new sculpture. But under the surface Humphrey is angry. Angry in the same way that the whole world is angry. Angry that despite Nick's complicity in a financial meltdown that affects everyone, he still banks his bonus.
There is a fifth character, Eva (Helen Bradbury), an apparently sensual and sexy young Croat who survived the assault on Vukovar and now seeks security through wealth. Here then is another debate, as Bradbury gives us a very sympathetic a portrayal of an amoral gold-digger.
But the heart of the matter is the passionate, articulate rehearsal of the great debate. Are bankers seedy crooks, piratical amoral geniuses, or go-getters trapped in a golden cage? (We don't really need to be told that they are most certainly not the saviours of the economy!). Nicholson has drawn an intriguing (and, in this case, dramatically exploitable) parallel between the great scam of security trading and the great scam of contemporary art - both, it can be argued, inflate the value of dross.
The set is splendid and used to good effect, the acting more or less faultless if at times a little lacklustre. The very clever and often funny script does, however, revisit elements of the arguments too many times. And overall the production is still a little hesitant and rough round the edges, but this will surely smooth out and tighten up as it runs. But otherwise this is a challenging, gripping production. If you have any cash left you could do worse than give some to West Yorkshire Playhouse, the final scene of Crash is worth the price of a ticket!
Running to 13th November
Reviewer: Ray Brown