Economy of Thought
by TOBY LICHTIG
A crowd of protestors marches through the streets, united in their stand against capitalism. Six floors above, a banker waves a £50 note outside an office window. Having attracted the attention of the demonstrators, he lets go of the money and watches it waft down to the pavement.
The man has made a bet with his colleagues. The agitators, he says, will be unable to resist it. Their idealism is flimsy: once the chance for easy cash is put before them, they'll fight tooth and claw.
But the man is wrong. Instead, a protestor sets fire to the note. Falsely sensing trouble, the police intervene, violently, and the protestor is smashed on the head, leaving him unconscious and in hospital.
This incident – inspired by a true story – is the basis for Patrick McFadden's agile and intelligent play about corporate greed, careerism and personal responsibility. The narrative follows the fall-out of the episode as it develops into a scandal, and the bankers are threatened with exposure.
The question of complicity is complex. It was Reece (Jonny McPherson) who dropped the note, but the others egged him on. Amanda (Katharine Davenport) wasn't even at the window – should she be implicated too? The debacle is further complicated by Amanda's sister and flatmate Collette (Rose O'Loughlin), a journalist on the look-out for a story. Motivated more by the greasy pole than the moral maze, she presses her sibling for information. This could be her break; it could also be Amanda's downfall.
Hypocrisy abounds. Reece may be odious, but at least he is honest. His colleagues roll their eyes at him but are they any better? Any sweetness in Tom (Ed Brody) seems predicated on his juniority. Amanda's ideals are subservient to the business of rising through the ranks. As for senior management, they are horrified: not by the event but the negative publicity.
With a running time of just over an hour, Economy of Thought is aptly named: McFadden packs a great deal of cerebral material into a surprisingly short time. It is witty, punchy and unfolds at a pleasing pace. Many productions are twice as long and half as good.
Friday's performance at The Yard in Hackney Wick was a preview for the Edinburgh Festival, where it is set to run for most of August. If you're in town and have some spare time, I'd highly recommend it.