Hayley Atwell Shines As A Ruthless Financier

Dry Powder, Hampstead Theatre ★★★☆☆

By Neil Dowden Last edited 75 months ago

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Last Updated 09 February 2018

Hayley Atwell Shines As A Ruthless Financier Dry Powder, Hampstead Theatre 3
Photo: Alastair Muir

US playwright Sarah Burgess's play Dry Powder is a sharp comedy about high finance. In a swift succession of punchy scenes it lifts the lid on the power struggles within a New York City private equity partnership who are about to buy a Californian luggage company. Mindful of the urgent need to improve their recently dented PR image, founder-president Rick at first favours partner Seth's plan to help the American family firm develop. But this is then challenged by his other partner Jenny who wants to increase their return by outsourcing the business to Bangladesh thus making existing workers redundant.

It's an inside look at a cut-throat corporate world where the bottom line is always the bottom line. There's a lot of financial terminology involved such as asset stripping and leveraged buyout (and 'dry powder' refers to the remaining capital in a private equity fund) in a conflict that pitches corporate social responsibility against profit maximization. But while the mechanics can seem rather dry and the ambience alienating, Burgess entertains with a witty dissection of dubious capitalist dealings without preaching a message.

Anna Ledwich's slick production stars the impressive Hayley Atwell as the ruthlessly mercenary Jenny whose lack of any emotional intelligence is played for laughs. There are also strong performances from Tom Riley as the indecisive Seth who has more of a social conscience and Aidan McArdle as the aggressively manipulative Rick who has the final say. Where equity means finance not fairness, it's money not morals that talks.

Dry Powder, Hampstead Theatre, Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, NW3 3EU, £10-£37, Until 3 March.