Touring – reviewed at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Guest reviewer: Joe Christie
Andy Duffy’s elusive character study is a maelstrom of stocks, shares and self-loathing.
One of the Traverse Theatre’s own offerings from last year’s fringe and now on tour, Crash traces the psychological unravelling of an unnamed trader, played by a cagey Jamie Michie. In the wake of a trauma which has left him feeling disconnected from life, he finds salvation in the increasingly volatile world of high finance. It’s 2007 and money markets are freezing. Chaos approaches.
As much an ideological probing as a psychological one, playwright Andy Duffy and director Emma Callander take on fruitful if well-trod thematic ground in exploring capitalism’s inherent lack of humanity and whether it can ever be compatible with personal fulfilment.
What is certainly novel, though, is that these questions are imbued within an intricate character study. The depth of analysis that a one-man show allows is used here to unveil the addictive quality of our society’s obsession with volume over value, as the trader’s career quickly becomes his enabler. Emotional escape can be found in the numbing power of cold unpredictability, which is part and parcel of life on the stock market.
These subtle parallels could not be drawn were it not for a very fine performance in a very challenging role. The protagonist is effectively a shell, impenetrable and hollow, so Jamie Michie is restricted to a bundle of nervous tics and wry comments with which to allow glimpses inside his character’s complex psyche. That so much can be deciphered with so little given is a testament to his skill and the sensitivity of his interpretation.
Both the strength and weakness of Crash are rooted in the central characterisation. It is a bold and smart choice to place the hour on the shoulders of such an enigmatic and often unlikable figure.
The beautiful, sleek design – wooden panels pouring down from the rafters with a metallic, corporate chair centre-stage – almost emulate the conditions of a job interview, fuelling unforgiving scrutiny whilst concentrating the pressure. The trader is most certainly a compelling puzzle to spend time scrutinising.
What does become somewhat lost in the complicated psychology though is a compelling emotional hook – not for lack of Michie’s nuanced efforts. It is simply difficult to empathise with a man who is at a remove from his own feelings, however tragic the events in his life may be.
This disconnect from the story is exacerbated by the fact that our perspective on events is shaped by him. Dramatically, it stunts the building of the necessary pressure as the story hurtles towards the crash, making the forays into melodrama at the close feel more unearned than Duffy would have intended them.
This ending nevertheless leaves a lingering question about certain events at the heart of the action, raising very potent questions about the human cost of our contemporary lifestyle. Such staying power speaks to the sharp intent underlying the work and the meticulous effort which went into its construction.
A great investment for the mind if not quite the soul, Crash must be championed for the trust it places in its audience — especially when that trust extends to handing them the final piece of the puzzle.
Running time: 1 hour (no interval)
The Traverse, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Friday 29/Saturday 30 April 2016
Tickets and details: http://traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/816/crash.aspx
Crash on tour 2016:
Fri 29 – Sat 30 April
0131 228 1404
Tue 3 – Wed 4 May
0117 902 0344
Fri 6 – Sat 7 May
029 2064 6900