If there is one group of people whose stories I didn’t expect to see told this Fringe, it’s bankers who are having a rough time. And yet, at theSpace on Niddry Street, this is the story that Penthouse tells – of a banker who messed up a deal, crashed the market, and has responded by renting out a penthouse suite and an escort. This somewhat clichéd piece, borrowing from the excess made famous most recently in Wolf of Wall Street and The Riot Club, is produced superbly well, making it even more of a shame that I couldn’t quite work out why I was supposed to care.
Ewan, our protagonist, has just lost both his girlfriend and a large amount of money, neither of which are properly explained to the audience. Ed Brody does well to create sympathy with the limited material he has given himself (as the writer), but there is very little actual insight into the thought processes in the character’s mind. We can guess that he is suicidal (particularly if we’ve read the accompanying flyer), and another character informs us that he ‘seems kind’, but this is the closest indication we get.
Despite this, Ewan remains the character treated best by the script – his friends, Danny the drug dealer and Drew the other banker, are flat almost to the point of caricature. Eloise, the escort that Ewan hires, functions in the narrative almost entirely as a way to make the men feel better. She is a guy’s girl, making laddish jokes but also providing a shoulder of support for Ewan to lean on.
It’s worth noting that Brody’s script does have moments of success. The audience when I was in loved the jokes, and the dialogue is snappy and slick, particularly between Ewan and Eloise. The direction is brilliant, well blocked and well paced, and the set does well considering the slightly unsuitable space. Overall, Penthouse has its moments, even if they are few and far between – but your time might be better spent replaying that Wolf of Wall Street DVD.