Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court, London SW1
Opened 11 February, 2002

*** Coolly compelling snapshots of office politics

The Royal Court's International Playwrights season begins with Roland Schimmelpfennig's stylish, patterned trio of executive conflicts.

British people like to think of Germans as humourless, but in fact there's a certain kind of straight-faced, discreet sardonicism that's characteristically German. It comes across well in this piece, in which three successive pairs of executives in an anonymous corporation clash with each other over promotion, major projects and of course sex. Schimmelpfennig's style, as translated by Maja Zade, could almost be described as "boardroom Mamet" little whirling eddies of language containing strategies for power.

In each scene, dialogue is interrupted by a series of monologues revealing the fundamental similarities between each pair of characters: whizz-kid Sabine and kingpin Angelika, like elderly Hans and his former protégé Frank, are opponents cut from the same cloth, and Robert and Patrizia battle over a work assignment because neither will admit to the other the importance of their brief sexual fling.

Ramin Gray's production is elegant, and a clutch of fine performances (especially from David Tennant and Jacqueline Defferary as the ex-lovers) keep matters finely pitched and sharply amusing. No great revelations, but an entertaining 90 minutes.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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