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Review: The Invisible Hand, at Kiln Theatre

Political thriller about an American banker kidnapped in Pakistan is a brilliant portrayal of the cyclical nature of greed, corruption and violence

15 July, 2021 — By Lucy Popescu

Daniel Lapaine in The Invisible Hand. Photo: Mark Douet

DON’T miss Ayad Akhtar’s five-star political thriller, depicting the collision of capitalism and terrorism, given a welcome revival at the Kiln and featuring a brilliant four-strong cast.

Nick Bright (Daniel Lapaine) is an American banker kidnapped in Pakistan and held for ransom. But his captors have got the wrong man. Nick’s company doesn’t think he’s worth 10 million dollars and aren’t willing to pay for his safe return.

He’s kept in a bleak, windowless cell (evocatively designed by Lizzie Clachan). To save his life, Nick cuts a deal with Imam Saleem (Tony Jayawardena), leader of the unnamed group, and agrees to make them the 10 million by trading on their behalf for a year.

Nick clearly understands the market climate in Pakistan. He teaches his belligerent captor Bashir (Scott Karim), who’s lived in Hounslow, about futures and shorting. He reveals how the market is shaped by self-interest – “like an invisible hand moving it all along”.

When a terrorist organisation assassinates a prominent Pakistani politician, Nick shows Bashir how they can capitalise on his murder.

Bashir believes the Imam is a “visionary”, whose desire is solely to help the people. But Nick’s money-making ruse is endangered when it transpires that Saleem is taking money from the trading account for his own ends.

Meanwhile, Bashir has become obsessed with playing the system. Money makes the world go round. The Invisible Hand is a brilliant portrayal of the cyclical nature of greed, corruption and violence.

Akhtar is not afraid to point the finger at all those he deems culpable. While terrorist groups wreak their bloody havoc, the buzz of US drones outside Nick’s cell grow ever closer.

Eventually Bashir and his sidekick Dar (Sid Sagar) take matters into their own hands. But Akhtar keeps us guessing as to who has the upper hand until the play’s final moments and director Indhu Rubasingham ensures the tension never drops.

Until July 31
kilntheatre.com

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