Written by Beth Steel, directed by Margaret Thanos
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
August 17th – September 3rd
General Admission $35
Under 30’s $30
Beth Steel’s Labyrinth focuses on the Latin American debt crisis of 1979-1982 and does what good theatre is supposed to; holds up a mirror to society and says, stop, look, think. Director Margaret Thanos takes this mirror and makes it visceral in her production at the Flight Path Theatre to present top-tier independent theatre.
The notion of wealth and the 1% is not a new concept. If we look at the world in ten-year gaps, we see the same cycle of privatisation, debt collection and the rich becoming richer over and over. Labyrinth comments on this through the lens of America’s dealings with its southern neighbours. Borrowing from Wall Street, The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street, Steel directs a tightly knit ensemble of actors to create a gripping tale that never wanders too far into preachy territory.
John (Matt Abotomey) gets a job at the Bank of America; scruffy, stuttering, and wide-eyed. In his journey through the corporate world, he meets the Jordan Belford-like Charlie (Angus Evans), yo-yo toying boss Howard (Brendan Miles), comedic-relief Rick (Tasha O’Brien) and Phillip (Rachael Colquhoun-Fairweather) and journalist Grace (Amila Ponte Alvarez) along the way.
Through their dealings with Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, John is introduced to the world of loans, dodgy dealings and the separation of fault and blame, all the while being haunted by his fraudster father, Frank (Richard Cox). John’s downfall is written from the start, and we are complicit in his journey.
Thanos, who is also Set Designer, centres most of the action behind the scenes of a bank, in multiple offices. Where we are is dictated by lighting (Jas Borsovszky) and world clocks on the wall – New York, Washington D.C, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina are each lit to offer suggestions to the audience, and we fill the gaps. Thanos forces you to pay attention and uses desks, office chairs and numerous filing cabinets to gallivant around the world.
The swiftness and fluidity of scene changes brings a great pace to the piece. The cast are trained like soldiers, loading office chairs on and off, wheeling desks in hovering above the ground, and using their bodies to mimic the tormented mind of John. This level of meticulous choreography and direction rivals that of a mainstage production.
For those of us who aren’t “numbers people”, there are acronyms aplenty that force you to play catchup. The script is not an easy one. Like The Big Short it plays with explaining simple economics to its audience, so you understand exactly what kind of dodgy dealings are going on. At times, it can be too much to handle.
Matt Abotomey’s John is impeccable, becoming slicker and slier through each loan he takes and each deal he makes. The way Abotomey plays out the climactic resolution through which the only way out of the debt crisis is to bury the little people is hard hitting and John’s downfall is triggering, but never overly confronting.
Tasha O’Brien and Rachael Colquhoun-Fairweather play up the humour and guilt that these characters bury in themselves. A particular Skittle guzzling scene is a highlight for its physical comedy. Angus Evans’ Charlie is Gordon Gecko, Jordan Belford, Donald Trump, never hesitating to throw his dick around, and is the first to freak when the going gets tough. Richard Cox nails the New York accent to command presence in his scenes with Abotemy. Brendan Miles digs for depth in his character and establishes his command as the head of the bank and the final judge of morality. Amila Ponte Alvarez is the heart of the show as Grace, representing the humanity that is lost in the dog-eat-dog world of journalism and economics.
The final words of the play leave you laughing; because if you don’t, you’d probably cry. The social commentary is not lost on the creatives of Labyrinth and the cyclical nature of greed is at the forefront of this production. Cynical, meticulously choreographed and directed and rich in characterisation, this is independent theatre at its finest.
Labyrinth plays at the Flight Path Theatre until September 3rd. Tickets can be booked at flightpaththeatre.org.
Movement Director/Cultural Consultant – Diana Paola Alvarado
Lighting Design – Jas Borsovszky
Producer – Alex Chambers
Sound Design – Sam Cheng
Assistant Stage Manager – Laila Chesterman
Costume Design – Holly-Jane Cohle
Producer – Angus Evans
Voice Coach – Felicity Jurd
Stage Manager – Amy Lawler
Operator – Astra Milne
Costume Assistant – Lily Moody
Fight Choreography – Diego Retamales
Director / Set Design – Margaret Thanos
Assistant Director – Jess Zlotnick
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