Al Jarrett, Bankers, Beatrice Scirocchi, Capitalism, Charlotte Watson, Edinburgh Fringe, Engineer Theatre Collective, Jesse Fox, Joseph Sentance, Moritz Erhardt, Pleasance Courtyard, Simon Lyshon, The Square Mile, Theatre Review
Engineer Theatre Collective’s “RUN,” which is presently stabled in the Pleasance Courtyard, is an energetic piece of theatre from a talented ensemble of young actors. The starting point of this play is the death of Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who died from an epileptic seizure in 2013 after working for three days without any sleep. A little extra clarity can never hurt and so, just to be clear, the coroner at Erhardt’s inquest ruled that there was “no proof” that fatigue had triggered the young man’s death.
“RUN” does not put Erhardt on stage, which would be rather objectionable so soon after his death, and ETC instead goes for the old ruse of changing his gender when shuffling him into a new character. The Collective also did a lot of legwork in the field whilst devising their play, interviewing City interns and employees. The average Fringe audience, which generally consists of the dregs of the Humanities, is duly promised an authentic peek into a strange and exhilarating world of power, social relevance, and huge salaries. This authenticity is the essential purpose of “RUN,” but our own added bonus, or “compensation” to use the same word as the play’s interns, is some good, swift physical storytelling. This cast is talented and they know the importance of showing as much as telling.
City internships are (still) usually paid and they ultimately represent a kind of summer-long job interview. They ostensibly test the applicants’ physical endurance and prowess, in the same way as SAS training, but they really demand a display of supreme uncomplaining loyalty to the bank. The militarism and severity of this might appear to be almost spiritually pure. These men and women have to walk through fire but they will emerge as superhumans who might one day control the financial elements, the storms and sunshine over our lives. So of course it is only fitting that they all almost die. The interns in “RUN” work all hours of the day and night researching decisions which involve massive financial risk, whilst gobbling down prescription treatments for narcolepsy to keep themselves awake.
Lawrence (Al Jarrett) is one of those public schoolboys who are simultaneously charming and boorish. We hit his inevitable crestfallen note when he leaves his BlackBerry in a pub and receives a bollocking from a senior manager. Tim (Joseph Sentence) and Caroline (Charlotte Watson) are more humdrum and middle-class; they are sensible and squeamishly detached from the banking fervour. They are very vulnerable when placed this close to power. The reptilian Ana (Gabriella Margulies) is probably the audience’s favourite character. She is mentally a fascist and her past is summed up with the single word “Bosnia.” One can imagine her riding into Srebrenica on the cannon of a tank and then skipping about with a machine gun. At the end of the play she tells a story which she conceivably intends to humanise her, though in retrospect it is no doubt just more cheek, dumping a pile of shit in front of Lawrence. You should watch Ana during the scene when Lawrence is in histrionics – he is screaming in her face but for twenty seconds, thirty seconds, maybe more, she never blinks once.
One might assume that “RUN” lacks depth because it obsessed with nailing tiny physical details such as this. The play’s tragedy is somewhat lost in all the currents of the performance, and yet the educational function of “RUN” still makes it seem like a lucky find. “RUN” provides a compelling and refreshingly unhostile depiction of a distant, elite layer of capitalism. It grants us access to real corridors of power.