Pros: I laughed out loud for the whole 80-minute running time.
Cons: As anything played in the round, sometimes all I could see were the backs of the actors.
The Omnibus Theatre in Clapham Common is one of the most versatile venues I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in London. To better accommodate Sarah Beaton’s set design for The Trap, its end stage has been transformed into a rectangular arena, with an office space at its centre, surrounded by two rows of seats for the audience. Three desks and various other bits of furniture recreate the open-plan with great attention to detail, with the action happening only a few inches away from the front row.
Thanks to this setup, the audience is immediately immersed into the plot, which starts in medias res with Clementine (Sophie Guiver) and Tom (Jahvel Hall) breaking into their own workplace in the middle of the night. This is a branch of the payday loan company The Debt Duck and Clem has made a detailed plan – a speciality of hers – for them both to steal some cash from the safe and remain undetected. Earlier the same day, the branch manager, Alan (Andrew Macbean), terminated her contract with immediate effect, as a result of cuts imposed by an upcoming change in the money lenders’ national regulations. Alarmed by a possible drop in business, regional manager Meryl (Wendy Kweh) gave Alan an ultimatum about sacking one of his employees or losing his own job. The personal implications of each character gradually emerge with a common ground of financial struggles, which are in part inevitable and in part self-inflicted.
Bringing a halt to the mayhem and prompting the switch between various scenes is the moody intruder alarm, which, when unexpectedly activated, requires the characters to freeze. This is represented on stage by a robotic voiceover and Jamie Platt’s ingenious use of pin spots emanating a red beam.
Flourishing under Dan Ayling’s agile direction, Kieran Lynn’s script is fast-paced and palatable, with some of his best lines being a delightful recipe of good research and wit. The deconstructed nature of the plot, which jumps back and forth along a 24-hour timeline, is fresh and entertaining, with a number of exhilarating twists and each vignette always ending on a cliff-hanger.
Offering a farcical portrayal of society and some of its most timely ill-doings, The Trap fulfils the cathartic function of a good wholehearted comedy, whose stereotypical characters have the same symbolic roles appreciated in the classical tradition of Greek and Roman descent. Rather than seeing those as multifaceted individuals with an elaborated psychological profile, audiences are expected to enjoy them for their familiar traits, applicable to several real-life human beings.
On this premise, a development of the story into a full-length piece is not only desirable but recommended for the achievement of more nuanced dialogues, aimed at exposing the vicious circle of money lending practices. Until then, The Trap remains a light-hearted satire of modern crookery that provides its audiences with 80 minutes of disengaged and therapeutic laughter, delivered by an ever so brilliant cast of which Macbean is the undisputed star.
Author: Kieran Lynn
Director: Dan Ayling
Producer: Omnibus Theatre
Box Office: 0207 498 4699
Booking Link: https://omnibus-clapham.org/event/the-trap/2017-10-31/
Booking Until: 19th November 2017