Stewart Roche’s new play, Tracer, takes corporate culture and turns it into a cat-and-mouse story featuring office politics and corruption. But was Peter Roche on the edge of his seat?
In the cosy New Theatre, at the back of the Connolly Bookstore in Temple Bar, a large American multinational has taken office. Unlike its rivals, this firm has weathered the recession and come out stronger than ever. ‘Streamlining and good management’ was the key, according to the Regional Manager, Ken Loftus, but there’s good reason to doubt him.
Tracer is a tense parody of corporate culture, presented by PurpleHeart Theatre Company and written by Stewart Roche. Directed by Jeda de Bri, the man behind Slippers (which was shown in The Theatre Upstairs earlier this year), this play similarly deals with ambition and power set within an Irish context.
The play starts as Richard, who makes documentaries on such topics as Warhammer clubs in Dublin or LARPing (that’s Live Action Roleplaying to the uninitiated), takes up work as a coder in the aforementioned firm. He finds Ken abrasive and his PA, Lauren (a convincingly sinister Clara Purcell) yet more so, but he tells himself he’s only going to be working there while he saves some money to make his next documentary. His veteran colleagues, Campbell and Deborah told themselves the same thing.
It soon becomes clear that everything isn’t above board at the firm. Lauren and Ken exchange hushed words in the carpark, employees are being transferred on a weekly basis, and what happens on the fourth floor?
Roche’s writing is tightly wound and suspenseful, and the dialogue is succinct – when he isn’t dropping clues he’s cracking a joke and no lines are wasted. The jokes are both subtle and bombastic, from the American employee who works in ‘Advanced HR’ (read: he tears our fingernails) to Lauren relating torture methods to sexual acts. Tearing out fingernails is a four on a one-to-ten scale – or a blowjob on Lauren’s scale. The acting also is solid all round. Patrick O’Donnell shines as the enthusiastic but awkward Richard, and Stephen Kelly effortlessly parlays the cool and collected Campbell.
The play does slightly suffer from pacing issues. The first half is all exposition, subterfuge and suspense, and this is where Tracer is at its strongest. The second half delivers the pay-off in terms of casting light on the shady happenings, and features a fantastic Lynchian scene, set to music from Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, but just when it feels like its about to explode into an action-filled game of cat-and-mouse, the whole thing wraps up. (Although it does wrap up on a wonderfully ominous note.)
A witty script and strong performances make Tracer a thoroughly enjoyable play. Catch it now in The New Theatre for that extra sense of claustrophobia, before it moves on to a larger venue.
Tracer is at The New Theatre, Temple Bar until September 6, booking here or (01) 670 3361. Watch the trailer below.
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