Roaring Trade is a great play. Think Laura Wade’s spoilt rich boys in Posh meets Leonardo Dicaprio’s Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street. Big money, big personalities, and a tendency towards being a massive wanker. The fast talking traders in Steve Thompson’s play are every bit as money driven and obnoxious as you would assume, always outdoing each other and crushing the new guy. Roaring Trade casts a light on this industry in a manner that is funny, quick and oddly touching. The play centres around a small group in an office of a large scale trading company. The office set is used cleverly as you a transported from the bellowing trading room, complete with an inbuilt video wall, scrawling ever changing figures, to various swanky restaurants and soulless chain bars, the inside of pubs and Pizza Expresses. Alan’s Cohen’s direction is punchy and shows an extreme attention to detail, each character multifaceted, each emotional layer deliberate and well measured. The transformation of the set is clever and well directed, the choreography is slick and the scene changes are seamless, all adding to the go-go-go feeling of being inside these businesses and with these fast paced people.
Big dogs Donny (Nick Moran) and PJ (Michael Mckell) are the kings of the trading floor and both play these parts well, all confidence and gift of the gab and strutting like peacocks. The eventual and inevitable fall from grace for these two works particularly well as you see them whirling at such great multi-million pound heights at the beginning of the play. New posh boy Spoon played by Timothy George, named for the silver spoon Donny is sure he has been born with in his mouth, quickly unnerves the old boys with some big successes and his entitled manner. Watching the rivalries play out between these equally detestable characters would be less enthralling if they didn’t all play their parts with an undeniable charm, Michael Mckell’s PJ is a loveable drunk, Nick Moran’s Donny is all charm and cheeky chappy confidence and Timothy George’s Spoon quickly finds his feet and learns to take on some of that over confident swagger. The ensemble is strong and the two female characters are also bolshie and bright, Jess (Lesley Harcourt) as the only woman on the office floor is flirtatious and clever, just as driven as her male colleagues and never toppled by their bravado. Melanie Gutteridge is Sandy, PJ’s wife, money focused and obsessed with new kitchens and luxury holidays, a sad glimpse at marriage based on money and devoid of any real love. Another star turn is Donny’s son Sean played by William Nye, you get another sad glimpse into a family life that is based on money and one-upmanship, lacking any father-son bond, both unable to really listen to what the other one is saying, Sean learning his conniving ways too young from a father who has based his life on selling at whatever the cost.
The Park is a lovely theatre, and this play particularly convinced me it is somewhere I ought to return to very soon. Roaring Trade walks a very clever line between admonishing these people in this money hungry game, and humanising them in a way that is both funny and sad. I was concerned that I would spend my evening watching a group of people that I cared little for, but the play is well written and the cast are strong, so despite some hideous behaviour from every character in the play, I did leave with a small lump in my throat. You realise you can like these people but also find their actions reprehensible, you can feel satisfied that people eventually get their comeuppance but also sad for the scraps of life they have left once all the money is gone. As Donny so heartbreakingly closes the play, really it seems what they all really want it just to “have a conversation”.