“Nobody’s yet written a play which features the way I am feeling. I feel outrage, fury and massive anger. The overpaying of the financial elite has corrupted our whole society.
“You can’t just blame the bankers, but I have a good go at it!”
So says William Nicholson, explaining why he wrote his new play Crash, which pulls few punches in its exploration of the injustices of bankers’ bonuses and the social consequences of economic inequality.
The play revolves around the reunion of three old school acquaintances. Humphrey, an under-employed sculptor, and Christine, a teacher, are invited to the countryside retreat of Nick, a multi-millionaire securities trader at Goldman Sachs.
Nick has decided to make a new “investment” by commissioning a work of art from Humphrey to add to his collection of grotesque hunting trophies.
But while Humphrey could do with Nick’s patronage, he has moral reservations about profiting from such ill-gotten gains, and taking small change from one banker’s bonus in exchange for his labour.
Nick is slightly paranoid about “enemies” outside the gates of his mansion—ranging from an imaginary anti-capitalist lynch-mob to ramblers “trespassing” on his estate.
Yet he soon finds himself confronted by “the enemy within” in the form of his guests.
The evening quickly descends into rows about why the financial geniuses of modern banking deserve bonuses and the over-inflated value of much modern art.
Overall, the play works well, with the slightly caricatured “fat banker” character evoking all the vulgarity, arrogance and pomposity of the super-rich.
The underlying theme that we are all somehow compromised and complicit in the financial crash because of our “corruption” by consumerism was a little frustrating at times.
Nonetheless, any play which puts the obscenities of bankers’ pay centre stage and relentlessly questions the City of London’s alleged contribution to wealth creation can only be welcomed.
Crash by William Nicholson, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.
Until 13 November