Originally Written for Whats On Stage
W For Banker should be one episode in a half-hour BBC sitcom. Living up to its tag line as a ‘gentle jab’ at society’s obsession with status and money, it focuses entirely on ‘banker with no balls’ Johnny Nicholas and his unfortunate situation, trapped between a clever Sloaney wife and a mistress who’s hiding more than just a sharp mathematical brain up her delicate sleeves.
It’s certainly not a serious commentary on the banking crisis, comedic or otherwise. But whilst it never pegs itself as such it also never succeeds in breaking free from its TV studio roots to embrace a probing theatrical medium. The question has to be begged, why do this as a play at all?
Still, it is hard not to raise a begrudging smile at Ray Kilby and John Steinberg’s polished style and safe comedy. And although the plot seems both predictable and ridiculous – at one point Johnny and his lover, Lenka, are shown making millions in under a minute on three laptops in his bedroom – it reveals situations that don’t seem so far from the trading floor truths to which we have become accustomed.
The cast do a solid job with a script that doesn’t allow for much natural emotional progression, broken up as it is with ‘laughs’. Ben Nathan and Pandora Clifford’s comic assuredness is certainly fun to watch. But only Charlotte Pyke brings a darker dimension to the table as a mistress who is as much delightful Audrey Hepburn as she is flighty Holly Golightly.
Cutting in at a neat one hour 30 minutes (why they decided to include an interval in such a short evening isn’t quite clear), W For Banker certainly doesn’t bore. But it doesn’t dazzle either and whilst it will raise a giggle, in an entertainment world saturated with digs at bankers it ultimately comes across as a little outdated and unnecessary.
Runs until 18 April 2010.