Dry Powder/Yous Two review – Atwell is a whiz and Christou’s debut sparks

Hayley Atwell plays a ruthless capitalist while Georgia Christou shows promise with tale of a teenager and her feckless father


Hayley Atwell, fresh from playing the humanist Margaret Schlegel in TV’s Howards End, now becomes the embodiment of ruthless capitalism in Sarah Burgess’s Dry Powder. She acquits herself well and the play has a hint of early David Mamet in its ability to both critique the corporate ethos and spring narrative surprises.

The plot hinges on a New York private equity firm’s plan to acquire, at a knockdown price, a Californian company called Landmark Luggage. Seth, who brokered the deal, views this as a chance to preserve the acquired property’s American base and turn the company into an online cash cow. Jenny, Seth’s bitter rival, is highly sceptical, and sees the only hope as stripping Landmark Luggage of its assets and moving manufacturing to Bangladesh. Rick, the private equity firm’s president, who is suffering a media storm after throwing a lavish engagement party while decimating the staff of a supermarket chain, has to arbitrate between the two options.

Burgess is uncompromising in her portrayal of the intricacies of high finance, and her dialogue is full of lines such as : “Rick, disintermediation will kill two birds.” But the strength of her play is that she shows this is how business actually works. In particular, she captures the hypocrisy that allows Rick, in desperate need of capital, to turn to a Hong Kong entrepreneur he earlier dismissed as “a corrupt asshole”. That encourages Jeff, the paternalist boss of Landmark Luggage, to grab at the chance of a whacking bonus.

The language is highly technical, but Burgess leaves you in no doubt that, in business, social responsibility is sacrificed to self interest.


In that sense Jenny, the ostensible villain, is at least true to her merciless principles, and Atwell rightly plays the character from her own point of view : as a mathematical whiz-kid who cannot see beyond the bottom line or compute – let alone recognise – the human cost of her calculations. Tom Riley as the wilfully optimistic Seth, Aidan McArdle as the beleaguered Rick and Joseph Balderrama as the Californian chief exec deliver good performances in Anna Ledwich’s production. It’s a demanding play, but one that suggests there is something rotten in the state of contemporary capitalism.

Meanwhile, Hampstead theatre continues to pump out new plays in its small Downstairs space despite a cut of £122,000 to its Arts Council grant. Yous Two, by the debutant Georgia Christou, is the 50th premiere its has staged there since 2010. It turns out to be a sparky, highly promising play about the odd relationship between 15-year-old Billie and her feckless, jobless, 36-year-old dad, who’s still hoping to claim compensation for a shoulder injury. I was strongly reminded of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey in that Billie is obviously the smarter, more mature of the two, and there is something touching about her protectiveness of her work-shy parent.

Christou’s ending is evasive and she seems obsessed by toilet bowls. However, in Chelsea Walker’s production, Shannon Tarbet as Billie, Joseph Thompson as her dad and Ali Barouti as a preening young buck who announces, “Women see me and they want my genes” perfectly match the buoyancy of the writing.

Dry Powder is at Hampstead theatre, London, until 3 March. Yous Two continues until 24 February. Box office : 020-7722 9301.

Source : The Guardian du 02/02/18 par Michael Billington

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A propos de Hayley Atwell, actrice britannique
Hayley Atwell, née le 5 avril 1982 à Londres, Angleterre, est une actrice britannique. Après plusieurs téléfilms, elle obtient son premier rôle au cinéma dans Le Rêve de Cassandre de Woody Allen aux côtés d’Ewan McGregor et Colin Farrell. En 2008, elle apparait dans The Duchess avec Keira Knightley. En (...)
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