REVIEW: THE TRAP (Omnibus Theatre) ★★★★

Written by Kieran Lynn, ‘The Trap‘ is set in a branch of The Debt Duck – the UK’s ‘premiere payday loans company’, and home to three disillusioned employees: Alan, the branch manager, and his underwhelmed but loyal employees: Tom and Clem. When area manager Meryl pays a visit to Alan to discuss making cutbacks in light of changes to the financial market, this triggers a messy chain of events that unearth several secrets amongst these seemingly squeaky-clean colleagues. Tom suddenly finds himself clutching a carrier bag stuffed with stolen cash, Meryl is wearing a balaclava, Clem is insisting “It’s only stealing if you get caught” and the Estonian thugs are after Alan – how on earth did they get to this stage?

The script is punchy and colourful, filled with several underlying messages about the exploitative corporate machine that is our world. Lynn’s writing draws attention to the various ways in which human beings use money as a way to add value (and determine worthiness) to our lives, but almost always at the expense of other beings. There are several poignant, heart-wrenching moments such as the undeniably serious topic of Alan’s addiction, and also discussions that invite the audience to consider their own opinions on very real and commonly-shared financial dilemmas, such as the struggle to face mortgage repayments in the wake of redundancy. The characters are diverse in their personalities, making for several interesting debates over key issues. Some of the societal messages are more obviously placed rather than subtly nuanced; at times a few of the characters’ moral and ethical speeches appear quite cheesy, and the moral compass of the play (whilst already clear enough) is really driven home when it doesn’t need to be. Despite this, the ping-pong-esque banter between characters throughout the play is a delight for a sarcasm-loving audience (particularly Brits).

The Omnibus Theatre, once Clapham Common’s library, currently stands as a popular entertainment venue, and as soon as you walk in you feel a strong sense of welcome and warmth – the perfect setting for an informal, socio-economic drama. This production, directed and produced by Dan Ayling, has a satisfying sitcom-feel to it, engaging us from the off with its immersive layout: the show itself takes part in the middle of a spacious hall, the seats lining three sides, and the actors within touching distance from us. The set was a scene we are all familiar with: distressed, coffee-stained carpet squares, an array of messily-written post-it notes, chocolate wrappers spilling out of wastepaper bins, the badly-decorated Christmas tree…I couldn’t fault the authenticity of the classic office set design. Hats off to sound designer Edward Lewis for creating a superbly authentic programme of music and sound effects, faultlessly aired throughout the performance: numerous effects from ‘outside’ the office adding context and the hilariously unpredictable burglar alarm were an atmospheric delight.

Jahvel Hall shines as Tom, the resident ‘good guy’ of the cluster, performing with great eloquence and control in his movements and expressions. He is well-suited to Tom’s very grounded role in the action, and exudes a natural confidence and authority on stage. Sophie Guiver is the energetic Clem; as a performer she is blessed with a bottomless set of facial expressions and an affinity for comedy and lively plots. Andrew Macbean is the gambling-addicted Alan, and his acting prestige is evident from the off; he commands the stage with his skillful development from seemingly unpopular, haughty boss to his unmasking as a terrified and vulnerable individual. Wendy Kweh is the source of much entertainment as the shallow character of Meryl; Kweh is endearingly convincing as the self-assured banking boss and keeps us raptly engaged during her scene discussing the inevitability of a capitalist society, leading us to not want to like her character very much…but not being able to resist.

‘The Trap’ is immensely witty, entertaining and full of key social and ethical issues on which to chew on. A talented cast and creative team give this energetic show the vibrancy it demands, whilst balancing oodles of humour at the same time as presenting the grim reality of the financial market – a great evening out.

Reviewed by Laura Evans
Photo: Laura Harling