A reviews round up for Beth Steel’s new play Labyrinth.
Beth Steel follows up her 2014 hit Wonderland with Labyrinth – a compelling new thriller about the Latin American financial crisis of the 1980’s.
With comparisons between Lucy Prebble’s Enron and The Wolf of Wall Street, Labyrinth could be considered derivative, however Steel deconstructs a complex topic into a dynamic, wildly entertaining and informative piece that shows how today’s ills are rooted in past actions.
Labyrinth runs until 8 October 2016 at Hampstead Theatre.
Here’s a roundup of what the critics had to say about Labyrinth.
“A racily exciting work that offers the most compelling theatrical study of high finance since Lucy Prebble’s Enron. As so often in drama, the virtue lies in the detail. Steel doesn’t just tell, but shows how the system works."
"Played on a wide traverse stage, Anna Ledwich’s production has a hurtling energy... Sean Delaney as John has the right air of a Candide-like innocent slowly succumbing to the system. Tom Weston-Jones as his Mephistophelian mentor exudes a narcissistic hedonism and there is high-grade support from Philip Bird as John’s dodgy dad and from Elena Saurel as a journalist who sees the ruinousness of reckless loans.'
“It’s a demanding play, but one that shows how today’s ills are rooted in past actions. It also confirms theatre’s extraordinary capacity to heighten our awareness of complex subjects, ranging from nuclear physics to, in this case, the labyrinth of high finance.”
Michael Billington, The Guardian
“Dynamic and deeply researched. Some may feel it is a bit too school-of-Enron for comfort, though I would say that its moral indignation is fiercer than that mustered by Lucy Prebble's [Enron]”
Paul Taylor, The Independent
“Labyrinth is Latin America's wildly entertaining answer to Wall Street”
"Labyrinth may not be wildly original – in its flashy theatricality as well as its topical boom-to-bust subject-matter, the piece feels indebted to Lucy Prebble’s 2009 hit Enron. And yet, richly researched, it’s insistently useful and almost indecently entertaining."
"The cast make the Mamet-like most of the zinging script, with assured work from Martin McDougall as the yo-yo spinning, boots-on-table bank exec, Elena Saurel as a canny economics journalist and a trio of Latin American government honchos played by one actor (Joseph Balderrama)."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
Labyrinth feels a like a slightly awkward fusion of the Wolf of Wall Street and Rupert Goold’s production of Lucy Prebble’s Enron (right down to the men in suits wearing animal masks) written by someone who's read The Shock Doctrine.”
“On more than one occasion, in fact, this feels like a production that’s fighting its design rather than working in harmony with it.”
“Though Labyrinth does feel derivative at times, it’s a pleasure to see a play that’s unafraid of density, that unpacks complex subjects – the South American bailouts and their consequences, the role of the IMF in all this – and lays them out in way that’s digestible, without spoon-feeding its audience.”
“It’s an angry play too, showing how those at the top will always come out clean while the cycle repeats itself.”
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
“Anna Ledwich’s production is not only a blast, but genuinely educational if you’re not especially familiar with this episode in US banking history”
“It’s messy: Steel pretty much gets carried away in semi-ironic celebration of the genre, and Andrew D Edwards’s nifty Perspex traverse stage is as distracting as it is impressive. There is some very clunky subtext. It is not ‘Enron’.”
“Labyrinth embraces its silliness while making a serious point”
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
'This fizzing play by the ultra-talented Beth Steel is set in New York but its core feels more Middle America'
'There’s a great vroom vroom to this play, an energy that lifts it out of the ordinary. The director Anna Ledwich keeps mixing things up... Jagged music discombobulates, people appear out of nowhere, some scenes are paranoiac, others full of fire-in-the-blood swagger.'
'All of the acting is good and the set, by Andrew D Edwards, is arresting. It’s ingenious, slick and perfect for this.'
Ann Treneman, The Times
'Steel is the author of Wonderland, the Hampstead theatre’s previous hit about the miners’ strike. Once again she wears her research lightly, painting a rogues’ gallery of top-of-the-range spivs in a world of sex, drugs and sub-prime loans.'
'Matt Damon lookalike Sean Delaney, who plays John, is an impressive young actor, allowing other characters — from Martin McDougall’s yoyo-spinning Texan bank president to Joseph Balderrama’s box set of Latin American leaders — to whirl around him.'
'Anna Ledwich’s production enters fully into the carnival spirit... It also sets up a story which is in thrall to these glamorous lowlifes"
"My only reservation about Steel’s play is that it’s a virtuoso riff on a common theme: dastardly bankers ripping off the world economy in pursuit of hedonistic lifestyles."
Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail