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Dry Powder, Hampstead Theatre,review:’Hayley Atwell milks comedy and never compromises’

PUBLISHED: 18:07 02 February 2018

Hayley Atwell as Jenny and Tom Riley as Seth. Picture: Alastair Muir

Hayley Atwell as Jenny and Tom Riley as Seth. Picture: Alastair Muir

©ALASTAIR MUIR CONTACT alastair@alastairmuir.com

Bridget Galton enjoys a comedy about heartless money hungry private equity fund managers featuring a sharp performance by Hayley Atwell

According to the programme glossary, dry powder is the remaining capital in a private equity fund.

But in Sarah Burgess’ slick comedy, where you have to attune your ear to the jargon-filled rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, it also turns out to be the shifting moral ground beneath a trio of financers seeking to close a big deal.

Andrew D Edwards’ set of revolving triangular mirrors proves a good metaphor for the lies and plays as the firm tries to acquire an all-American family business.

The tension between personal morality and the pursuit of wealth playes out in terse, mocking exchanges between Hayley Atwell’s hard-nosed unapologetic Jenny and Tom Riley’s more conflicted Seth.

If Jenny is near sociopathic in her lack of empathy, he is starting to think about how he’d like to be remembered, and to question whether pure competition at any cost comes at a heavy price.

Their more thinly written boss Nick is surfing the public fallout from his decision to fillet a company, put hundreds out of their jobs, then hold a wallet bustingly excessive engagement party. Even the fund’s superwealthy LP’s (limited partners) get cold feet at the bad publicity of enraged ex-employees waving placards.

While CEO Jeff hopes the buy-out deal will grow his company and secure his staff their jobs, Jenny wants to asset strip then flip his firm for greater profit,

But his personal debts may well force him into self-interest. Anna Ledwich’s smartly-paced production keeps us engaged with the potentially hard sell of the bankers’ dilemma. As Nick comforts himself that building a school in Bali will offset the darker side of the profit imperative, like us, Seth wonders at the human cost - and the cost to America - of boiling down risk and reward to paper equations.

But most enjoyable is Atwell who milks maximum comedy from Jenny’s empty-souled incomprehension of human weakness. This woman will struggle to function in any other environment but it is the perfect place for her. While everyone else here ends up compromising, Jenny never has to.

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