With Christmas approaching far too quickly, more than one mind will be turning to the question of finances. So it’s an apt time of year to stage Kieran Lynn’s satirical comedy The Trap, which is set in a branch of the Debt Duck, a high street payday loans company where it’s not only the customers who are in need of bailing out.
Clem just got fired. Tom’s struggling to pay his rent. They just so happen to know there’s 10 grand in the safe, and plans are a bit of a speciality of Clem’s… Unfortunately, their ill-conceived heist is interrupted by branch manager Alan – and chaos ensues. But it’s fine, because it’s only stealing if you get caught, right?
As we all know, companies like the Debt Duck may be legal but are also far from ethical, taking advantage of desperate people by offering a short-term fix in exchange for long-term misery. The employees of the branch are all too aware of the parallels between themselves and the Estonian gangsters who turn up later on in the story – but ironically they depend on the company for their own financial survival, and are consequently just as trapped as their unfortunate customers. Incoming government regulations are the catalyst, jeopardising the future of the Debt Duck and everyone caught within its vicious circle, and setting the scene for a debate about the ethics of capitalism.
Fortunately, we’re saved from anything too heavy by a witty script from Kieran Lynn, who clearly shares regional manager Meryl’s love for a good metaphor, and four strong comic performances from the cast (Jahvel Hall, Sophie Guiver, Andrew Macbean and Wendy Kweh). All four characters are somewhat ethically challenged – with the exception of Jahvel Hall’s Tom, who keeps trying to do the right thing in the face of intense peer pressure – but they’re also incompetent enough as both moneylenders and criminals that we just end up feeling sorry for them (Andrew Macbean cuts a particularly pathetic figure as the hapless Alan). The true villain of the piece is the unseen, mythical figure of company boss Trevor Wynyard, who has the power to make or break everyone else’s lives whilst remaining untouchable himself.
Sarah Beaton’s set recreates the Debt Duck office in realistic detail, with director Dan Ayling centring the action along the middle of the space, with the audience seated on three sides. The lighting design from Jamie Platt not only helps us keep up with the story’s two distinct timelines (one night, one day) but also creates just the right level of drama at key moments. On a similar note, I feel I should mention the office’s temperamental burglar alarm (sound by Edward Lewis) which plays such a major role in proceedings it’s practically a fifth character.
While the play doesn’t exactly tell us anything we didn’t already know (payday loans companies are bad, basically), it is very funny – but is careful to target its satire at the perpetrators rather than taking cheap shots at the victims, so we don’t feel bad for laughing loudly and often. Recommended for a fun – and affordable – night out.
The Trap is at the Omnibus Theatre until 19th November.