Theatre Review: American Trade

Fast and furious new play AMERICAN TRADE barters with gags aplenty as the Royal Shakespeare Company come to Hampstead.

American Royal Shakespeare Company resident playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney has brought us an exciting and lively new play, American Trade, which is London through and through.

Billed as a contemporary Restoration Comedy, it is the story of good looking, streetwise American rent boy Pharus, who is on the run from hip hop star Jules in New York. When Pharus’ eccentric Aunt Marian invites him to join her highly successful and prominent PR company in London it seems like just the break he needs. But instead of heading up the modelling agency Aunt Marian wishes him to, Pharus has other plans... picking up a motley crew of oddballs along the way.

American Trade is a play about the pressures of making it in the big city and society’s obsessions - from desire and control to deception and image. It’s a satire about racial and sexual identity in modern London and there are gags aplenty, some astute and others falling a little flat, simply due to the mere number and frequency they appear.

Jamie Lloyd’s direction is fast and furious and barely gives you time to draw breath.

Debbie Korley is fantastic as Girl Wonder, the woman who pops up in multiple characters and costumes throughout the play. Tunji Kasim is a buffed up Pharus and brings lightness and enthusiasm to the main part. But perhaps best of all is Sheila Reid as the cackling, booze-addled Aunt Marian, who plays the part with aplomb.

* Showing at the Hampstead Theate in Eton Avenue, NW3, until Saturday, June 18.