The Engineer Theatre Collective are a bright, young company founded by a group of talented graduates from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Their first show, MISSING, was a huge success at last year’s Fringe; winning the Scottish Daily Mail Edinburgh Fringe Award.
Their new show, RUN, is a reflective play about the high-pressure world of investment banking. The play follows four young graduates as they rise and fall within the tempest of a banking internship. This is a humorous and deeply tragic tale of ambition and personal sacrifice, worked into an alternative ‘coming of age’ play.
The company credit Lecoq as one of their biggest influences, and their attention to physical detail and precision is admirable. the transitions in particular are exceptionally neat and satisfying to watch. They use the modest space in The Pleasance Beneath to its fullest and there is a real confidence in their simple set design. Sadly, from where I was sitting, some of the play was lost to me; actors sometimes masking one another. But, other than a few small blips, the visuals were stunning. The physical language they’ve created captures perfectly the physical and mental toll of their subject; combining the concious and unconscious idiosyncrasies of bodies under stress with the lustful and ambitious gestures of youth. I think the company stumbles a little with just how much of this choreography they employ; they have an engaging story that, at times, felt held up. The climax of the play left me a little wanting also, the sequence is very impactive but over too soon.
The story is incredibly touching, and actually quite humbling. I have spoken out viciously against ‘The 1%’; condemning their ambitions and their lifestyles, and this play made me think about my own prejudices. RUN is about intelligent young people, good people, confused and lost in the world. These characters are presented with a monumental opportunity that jerks at their moral fibre and kindles the desire for security and purpose. It’s a very touching and very human story. The success of this story boils down to four, sensitively conceived characters. At a primary level, the characters are suitably contrasting stereotypes. You have the privileged juvenile, his uncle already working for the company; the reclusive genius; the fierce female competitor; the wavering moralist. On top of these recognisable frameworks, Engineer have crafted four fascinating and fully realised human beings. You can’t help but recognise the same motives, the same fears, that drive them; they drive us all down our own roads.
The play is littered with wonderful little touches that deepen our investment. Whether it’s the eating of peanut butter with a fork, or brief glimpses of sexual awkwardness and awakening; RUN takes hold and carries you through. The script is well crafted, capturing a commonality and honesty that is easily lost when presenting a subject such as this. There is an exquisite detail in the dialogue that sets every character apart and ignites the narrative.
The performances were superb. Each actor brings their own unique component to the overall and together create a diverse and absorbing whole; a living landscape. Al Jarrett as Lawrence is lively and charming, pulling off the bravado of privilege whilst revealing a tantalising vulnerability that makes him both clownish and deeply endearing. Gabriella Margulies as Ana has an extraordinarily commanding physical presence; she maintains a stoic strength that deliberately holds us away for much of the play but still succeeds in capturing our hearts before the end. Joseph Sentance as Tim was particularly impressive. He captures the inner turmoil of a man caught between his beliefs and his desires. Sentance’s psychological gesture and verbal traits make him mesmerising and totally entertaining. Charlotte Watson as Caroline expertly conceals an untamed and volatile inner identity underneath a veneer of professionalism and introversion; so much so, she is practically playing two distinguishable characters at once.
What this play does remarkably well is condemn a system without placing blame on those caught within it, which is an important lesson we all must learn. There is a parallel between those held at the bottom of the social ladder and those held at the top, and this play highlights the societal problems that effect us all. Yes, there are villains in big banking, the play marks this, but prejudice and misunderstanding is rife on both sides of the fence. We all dream, we can all have those dreams dashed, and we all share more than people readily admit.
This play is a real success.
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