The strange world of bond trading and the lives of the traders who inhabit it is explored in the new play “Roaring Trade.” ★★
There are four desks in an office in Canary Wharf where four unique personalities ply their trade day in and day out. Their goal, of course, is to make money. But not all of them do. Fortunes are made, and lost, in a single second. It’s a very stressful job, one that has direct effects on their families.
‘Roaring Trade’ is set on a bond trading floor of a fictional investment bank called ‘McSorleys.’ It introduces us to the four people who live and breathe their jobs. We’ve got beautiful blonde Jess (Lesley Harcourt), confident but not cocky. She’s got more balls than some of the men she works with, including Donny (Nick Moran), who’s putty in her hands, and is the cocky one. Then there’s PJ (Michael McKell), burnt out yet still slaves away at his job to appease his keeping up appearances wife Sandy (Melanie Gutteridge). Spoon (Timothy George) arrives as a new team member, very young, getting the job because his father is a fat cat in the City.
For these four, it’s all about the money, and the bonus that validates their performances. It’s what drives them to succeed, at any cost, and whether that puts another team member at risk, so be it. When newbie Spoon makes £3.6 million on a trade, he suddenly becomes the golden boy. And when it comes to bonus time, Donny is oh so curious as to how much Spoon has received, enough so to attempt to take a peak at Spoon’s bonus letter. But when PJ receives less than what he’s expecting (a luxury trip to Barbados is cancelled for a trip to Brussels), this means his wife Sandy will not get her new kitchen, and their seven bedroom house will have to be put up for sale. Sandy says she’s worried that they will be the target of gossip if they sell their house, though PJ says that she likes to be the center of good gossip when the money is coming in and she is spending.
Meanwhile, Donny instills his work ethic on to his son Sean (William Nye), teaching him how to make money using a sachet of ketchup as an example. He tells Sean that in the bond world, money can be made by selling something one doesn’t own, and making money off of it. It’s an example the son takes to heart.
But things get very tense on the trading floor when Donny is down £8.6 million on a trade, and it gets even more tense when PJ is offered a head trading role at fictional investment bank Shads, and he wants to take the rest of the team with him. But when one trade goes in a different direction than expected because of internet chat room gossip, it’s anyone’s guess whose going to be in the money and whose going to be out of the money. And it’s not who you would expect.
‘Roaring Trade’ takes the ‘bankers are wankers’ phrase and runs with it. Donny, the veteran, seems to just care about making money. Jess appears heartless but always in control, while Spoon the newbie is so green that he will take risks just to get ahead. We get a different message from PJ – that not all bankers are bad. While the acting is not bad (George is superb as the new kid on the block) and Harcourt nails it as the tough-as-nails Jess, Mckell’s acting is a bit over the top, and the character behaviour not quite believable. Originally written for the stage in 2009 and quickly updated to reflect today’s news (a line in the show is “bonds are dropping like VW”), ‘Roaring Trade’ has more of a yelp than a roar. And while our real banks have taken risks in the past and are paying heavily for it now, as Donny says in the play – ‘There’s risk in everything that matters.’
‘Roaring Trade’ is playing until 24 October 2015 at The Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. To buy tickets, click here