Sarah Burgess’s play introduces us to world that many of us know little of, but perhaps we should. Dry powder is the remaining capital in a private equity fund, and her New York based financial comedy is set in a company of financiers that use other people’s money to buy into businesses, and make a lot of dry powder, lots of money, as a result. For the mathematically challenged such as I, the programme comes with a handy glossary that explains the terms that Burgess rolls out at the start of the show. Unfortunately, dramatically, the dry powder never sparks alight, and this is a dry night at the theatre.
The cast are slick and cool, as is Andrew D Edwards’ design. The action centres on whether the firm, headed by Rick, should take over a small suitcase company called Landmark. His two partners, whose job it is to provide opposing viewpoints, argue over the best way forward, Seth wants to help Landmark grow, Jenny wants to strip it back, sack the work force and outsource to China. Because Rick has had some bad press lately, due to a lavish engagement party featuring a live elephant thrown on the day of mass job losses at a company they bought out, he seems to favour Rick. The entire 1 hour 40 minute play focuses on this one argument, and Anna Ledwich’s production is under powered and feels much longer, and the elephant in the engagement room is referred to far too often.
There are many good moments. The verbal sparring between Jenny, (Hayley Atwell, superb comic timing) and Seth, (Tom Riley), are funny and enjoyable, Riley in particular is very entertaining with his view of middle managers. The problem is, the moral dilemma at the heart of the play are only seen through the eyes of these, overall, unlikeable characters. Rick, (Aiden McArdle), is given little by the playwright to delve into. I am still unsure about why Rick feels uneasy about stripping the company’s assets, especially s he swings very swiftly to Jenny’s side at the end. The uneasiness of the situation is represented by Jeff, (Joseph Balderrama), boss of Landmark, who ultimately takes the money over his workforce. No matter how much they argue, we see the ending from a long way off, and we never hear from the little people, the workers who get screwed over by deals like this. Anger is the missing quality in this script.
In a month where London theatre is offering up radical reinterpretations of Shakespeare, strong productions of classic plays and a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright at the National, this production look a little dated and very safe. Enjoyable as the cast are, Dry Powder is a bit of a damp squib.