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Review: Dry Powder, Hampstead Theatre

Movie star Hayley Atwell is one of many outstanding performers in hard-nosed exposé of high finance

08 February, 2018 — By Jack Courtney O’Connor

Hayley Atwell as Jenny, a heartless founding director of a private equity firm, in Dry Powder. Photo: Alastair Muir

IS there such a thing as caring capitalism? A bridge between business, manufacture and finance? It would appear not in New York-based Sarah Burgess’s play Dry Powder – a hard-nosed expose of high finance, where asset stripping seems to be the name of the game and greed is still king in this post-2008 world.

Movie star Hayley Atwell makes a welcome return to the stage playing Jenny, a heartless founding director of a private equity firm, KMM Capital Management. Her creepy boss Rick (Aidan McArdle) is about to purchase a family manufacturing business and Jenny has proposed that to maximise profits KMM should move the manufacturing base to Bangladesh. This move in turn would make thousands of US workers redundant. Jenny’s colleague Seth (Tom Riley), who actually brokered the deal, argues that the profit margin is negligible and the bottom line is to save jobs.

Tom Riley as Seth. Photo: Alastair Muir

Rick, the president of KMM, thinks otherwise. “Do we work in public relations?” he asks.

Director Anna Ledwich‘s production runs at a crackerjack pace, sometimes at the expense of dialogue. At times a glossary of tech terms is required: for example, dry powder is the remaining capital in a private equity fund.

There are many outstanding performances, including the US actor Joseph Balderrama’s Jeff Schrader, the boss of the family-owned manufacturing company. One of the many highlights of the production is Jenny’s address to the NYU when she describes a fellow student as a loser because she could not complete X to the seventh power over X squared, simplified. I think I better go back to evening classes.

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