She Rode Horses Like The Stock Exchange is an entertaining, slow-boiler.  The play is set in a New England park on a large blanket spread out over a little grassy knoll. We meet the first couple enjoying their ‘Sunday Fun-Day’. But all is not fun. There is a slow, gentle feel to the dialogue and pace of this play, even the comedic moments are gentle. But this lazy Sunday afternoon pace belies the turmoil underneath. It’s a lovely juxtaposition. Nothing is quite as idyllic as it seems.

“The giants are falling… The giants are falling and shaking the ground”

Henry (Tom Anson Mesker) is a male nurse and his partner Amy (Matilda Ridgway) is an investment banker. A cute couple having a weekend picnic in the park but we soon notice the cracks. He’s bought her an icecream, she doesn’t like ice cream, She’s sold their flat and bought a huge house in his name, and has not told him. He wants to get married, she doesn’t. As the cracks start to widen we meet the second couple, there’s history and it’s not all sweet. Amy is fighting to be successful in her patriarchal world. She will win at any cost, but what is the cost? Max (Dorje Swallow) is struggling to come to terms with a financial catastrophe at work and try to understand who is to blame. Sara (Nikki Britton) is the housewife, content to read murder novels and enjoy the good life that comes with being married to an investment banker but how happy and secure is she? While Henry wants a married life with a home, a dog and a tool shed. He has bought a bunch of tools, he just needs to work out what they do. As the play unfolds it slowly reveals new layers in the characters and their story.

“She comes faster than I do.  Is that feminism do you think, or just efficient time management”

All four actors handle this script beautifully. This is classic ensemble acting and the whole cast work together tightly, timing the comedy well and successfully walking that dangerous tightrope of a slow and steady pace over the abyss of audience attention. At no point do they fall. For the 75 minute play we are engaged and fascinated with the story unfolding.

Isabel Hudson‘s set is simple, a raised stage. Artificial grass covering it and then running up the wall on one side of the Kings Cross Theatre’s traverse stage. Giving the impression of the park rolling on into the distance and also the unclimbable mountain that looms before them all.

Christopher Page‘s lighting and Ben Pierpoint’s  sound never intrude but compliment the situation and moments of the play. Director Nell Ranney holds a steady hand over this production making sure it never loses pace and even though we are watching two couples on a blanket in a park for 75 minutes, the movement is natural and never static.

There are big issues lying underneath this play, from sexual politics in the office to the morality behind the GFC and the Great American Dream of success. It never preaches, it simply reminds us and causes us to ponder.

Lynden Jones – Theatre Now & On The Town