Who needs a load of props when you have a company this game? Within the first few minutes of Voloz Collective’s comic financial thriller, the actors have brought to life pigeons, windscreen wipers and office water coolers – complete with coos, squeaks and shivering glugs respectively.
In a highly physical production, it’s the noughties and Jess Wildgoose has clicked her heels and left Kansas to make it big on Wall Street, but can’t break into the boys’ club. On stage, the synthesiser accompaniment from musician Frederick Waxman, kept every bit as busy as the other four performers, captures Jess’s sense of wonder at the financial district’s skyscrapers, brought to life with glowing handheld photo frames. In the title role, Olivia Zerphy does well to get us onside with a character who sees beauty in the markets and whose financial career is driven by the dust-bowl wreckage of the Great Depression.
Ridiculed as “Steinbeck” at one job interview and mocked for predicting an imminent financial crisis, she nevertheless gets a foot in the door and has soon sold her soul for MBSes, CBOs and the filthiest methods of generating lucre. There is little Industry-style jargon in this satire, which is at pains to make subprime mortgages and the crash comprehensible. But the constant light touch sits uneasily with the reckless behaviour that led to the global recession, particularly when viewed in a cost-of-living crisis.
The Big Short managed to combine condemnation with comedy yet there are no notes of fury here. Nor is there much emotional impact from Jess’s breakdown. A brief mention of the crash’s effect on the Wildgoose family back in Kansas could be potently developed in a manner akin to the characters played by Charlie and Martin Sheen in Wall Street.
But there are zippy performances from Zerphy and her co-stars Paul Lofferon, Emily Wheatman and Sam Rayner (who all share writing and directing credits). The company has a dynamic camaraderie similar to Bristol’s Wardrobe Ensemble and this highly stylised production maintains the feverish energy of the trading floor for the full hour.