|Photo by Clare Hawley, Asparay Photography
Rocket Productions in association with bAKEHOUSE presents SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE, by Amelia Roper, at the Kings Cross Theatre (KXT), in the Kings Cross Hotel. 20 October - 11 November.
SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE, written in 2014, is by an Australian playwright, Amelia Roper, who has been working and living in Los Angeles for some time.
Two couples: Amy (Matilda Ridgeway) and Henry (Tom Anson Mesker), Max (Dorje Swallow) and Sara (Nikki Britton), friends because of business contacts - Amy and Max having worked as rivalling investment bankers together at the same firm - meet up in a park accidentally and tentatively sit on a shared picnic blanket and have a chat. It is 2008 and the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and the house foreclosure bubble has burst.
We meet, first, couple Amy, the banker and Henry, a nurse, and get to know them. Amy is a truly driven and manipulative 'professional' who is not, it seems, entirely scrupulous in her business dealings, and Henry a nurse, a hopeful personal partner more than slightly bewildered with the terms of their relationship. Their conversation is sprinkled with daffy offers from Henry and countered with spiky re-joinders and physical resistance from Amy. His proffered strawberry ice cream cone spurned, melted and crushed. It may be 'funny' because he is so 'innocent' and she is so nakedly 'audacious' with the use of her power.
Max, the other banker (ex-banker, we learn) and his wife Sara, laden with a standing lamp and lots of shopping bags stumble upon this other couple and uncomfortably join them for a moment or two in the park. The four way conversation develops into barely hidden hostility (toxic sometimes) of a personal and professional kind, accompanied with some stuffed goose pate on dry biscuits, supplied by Sara. Max is falling apart with his loss of power and past rivalry with Amy (maybe combusted and stoked by his feelings of humiliation at losing out to Amy in the world of investment banking in the office), whilst Sara is relatively - deliberately or not - fairly unconcerned with the real world - reminiscing of her riding horses and it's fond connection to her seduction of Max, and for her home with the veranda, tree and tulip garden.
Nothing much happens in the 80 minute playing time except the revealing of some nasty or deluded people who having created one of the great financial scandals of all time seem to be coping as best they can in the ever failing promise of the American Dream - some coping ferociously, some ignorantly, some despairingly, some self-consciously in a deliberate state of denial.
All the company of actors give solid performances, with Dorje Swallow and Nikki Britton particularly acute and expert in their comic (satiric) creations. The Design of the park (tree and grass) by Isabel Hudson, lit by Christopher Page, with atmospheric Sound Design by Ben Peirpoint, Directed, confidently by Nell Ranney provide a comfortable night in the theatre with playwriting of some promise. It doesn't quite make it, either as satire, comedy or critique. It is a big stretch indeed as to whether one should have feelings of empathy for anyone in this world of SHE RODE HORSES LIKE THE STOCK EXCHANGE - they, it seems to me, deserve everything that has happened.
In denial, Sara, lays down on the picnic blanket and pulls out a book entitled STRIP FOR MURDER, whilst defeated Max goes off to fetch them an ice cream with their last bit of money: "Don't worry about tomorrow. Spend all your money on ice cream. It's a beautiful day." 'Oh yeah', one thinks, 'for whom?'
On the other hand the film 99 HOMES written in 2014, too, by Ramin Bahrani (also Directed) and Amir Naeri, with Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern may give you another point-of-view of the GFC that will shake you into a proper state of outraged perspective.