A meeting of minds in an accountant’s office
Former banker John Steinberg and TV director Ray Kilby were introduced through the man who did their books – now they have written a farce about the perils of greed. Bridget Galton talks to them A FORMER banker is satirising ruinous greed and money ob
Former banker John Steinberg and TV director Ray Kilby were introduced through the man who did their books - now they have written a farce about the perils of greed. Bridget Galton talks to them
A FORMER banker is satirising ruinous greed and money obsession in a credit crunch comedy.
John Steinberg, who used to run a mergers and acquisitions company and still owns a property business, co-wrote the modern farce W For Banker.
"It's about what can happen when someone becomes completely obsessed with money and thinks it's more important than people," he says.
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"I have seen it happen to people, when it becomes not about what they can do with the money but about how much they can make."
Steinberg hooked up with
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co-writer Ray Kilby after being introduced by their mutual accountant.
The pair wrote US election comedy In The Balance, which ran at Hampstead's New End Theatre in autumn 2008, just as the global finance markets imploded.
The unfolding credit crisis gave them the idea for another play about the perils of greed, which will also be staged at the New End.
"We were two loss-making clients and our accountant thought by introducing us he would cancel out the loss.
"But he ended up sponsoring both plays and, in our marriage of inconvenience, he got all the worst aspects of marriage without any of the good points," says Kilby.
Steinberg's first job after leaving business school in the mid-70s was in banking and he forged a successful business career until concentrating on writing five years ago.
"We are opposites in terms of background," chips in Kilby. "Mine is entirely in the arts. I went to the Royal College of Art then worked as a TV director on standard fare like EastEnders.
"But we just got on ridiculously well and shared a sense of humour.
Comedy is easier to write when there are two of you - you can make someone cry by killing a dog or breaking up a marriage but getting people to laugh is very precise and technical."
W For Banker opens as the financial crisis has sent self-made city boy John Nicholas' assets plunging. His wife has left with their two children and he has taken to his bed.
But then his Russian mistress Lenka - a mathematical genius - arrives with a plan to get his money back just as his wife comes round to talk things over.
"We bring different things to the table," says Steinberg. "I have a good ear for one-liners and what situations will be funny.
"Ray is a much more accomplished writer and puts the thing together much better than I can."
The duo rigorously work out their characters and scenarios, then get actors to workshop and improvise around them - before sitting down to write a script.
"Behind this story about financial crisis, there is a human story with a universality to it," says Steinberg.
Kilby adds: "This is about what someone's prepared to do for money, an idiot husband who has become a money addict, his mistress who is convinced that money drives everything and solves all problems, and a wife who is the only honest person in the whole play.
"There are classic farce elements like the mistress hiding in the cupboard when the wife turns up, and the spectacle of an hysterical man in meltdown."
The pair hope to emphasise the ephemeral nature of money-making in the testosterone-charged, highly competitive city environment, where huge amounts can be made by "shifting money around".
"In the end, it's not the amount of money they make which was the catalyst but the priority they give to it," says Steinberg.
"The atmosphere that was around a year or so ago influenced the play and enabled the writing," adds Kilby.
"Johnny is part of an attitude, a banker's everyman who allows us to see on a micro level how this kind of greed affects society."
W For Banker runs at the New End Theatre from March 23 until April 18.