The Invisible Hand, Tricycle Theatre, review: ‘Shrewd look at extremism’

The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar at The Tricycle Theatre
Director: Indhu Rubasingham
Designer: Liz

The Invisible Hand by Ayad Akhtar at The Tricycle Theatre Director: Indhu Rubasingham Designer: Lizzie Clachan Lighting Designer: Oliver Fenwick Sound Designer: Alexander Caplen Cast: Tony Jayawardena, Daniel Lapaine, Sid Sagar, Parth Thakerar - Credit: Photo by Mark Douet

‘Money is the opiate of the people’, not religion argues the Imam captor of American financier Nick Bright in Ayad Akhtar’s taut political thriller.

As a shrewd look at extremism and the shadowy side of globalization, The Invisible Hand proves to be another coup in the Tricycle’s programming by Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham.

Akhtar pitches the free market as a kind of religious ideology - in part based on faith - that can be played to profit from seismic global events.

In this scenario, the profiteers are a Pakistani-based terrorist cell who incarcerate Bright (Daniel Lapaine) after a botched attempt to kidnap his Citibank boss.

Bright strikes a deal with his captors - to make $10 million in one year to pay off his ransom.

Equipped with a laptop and an assistant - radicalised Hounslow-born Bashir [Parth Thakerar] - Bright is repeatedly threatened by his captors that they will hand him over to the more violent neighbouring terrorist cell Lashkar, should he fail.

Questions over corruption arise: is Imam Saleem (Tony Jayawardena) on the make?

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Is Bright duping Bashir, the Imam, both? Is it Stockholm syndrome for Bright or reverse Stockholm syndrome for Bashir as his accelerated trading-floor education allows him to experience some considerable highs.

Mawkish humour creeps into buddy-esque exchanges and some dialogue is too slick. Akhtar’s command of economics is assured but, at times, the writing feels like a condensed seminar on currency speculation and the jeopardy dissipates behind a wall of facts.

Still, director Rubasingham keeps the energy pulsating. High voltage prison-cell sounds and blinding lights powered at the audience punctuate scenes.

Lapaine’s trader oscillates between sympathetic and ambiguous.

Thakerar’s volatility is fearsome. Jayawardena swings between phlegmatic and brutal to conjure up the layers of this religious leader under scrutiny.

No one is spared here.

The Invisible Hand is at The Tricycle Theatre.

Rating: 4/5 stars