Arts > High price to pay

09 June 2016 | by Mark Lawson

High price to pay


Thrillers are a form that theatre has largely ceded to the screen, possibly because fights are hard to stage, car chases impossible and there are strict rules about the firing of guns in auditoria.

But the Pakistani-American dramatist Ayad Akhtar seems to be developing a genre of intellectual suspense play. Disgraced, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, concerned a secularised Muslim lawyer who becomes involved in the case of an imam accused of radicalisation. Akhtar now follows that play, a sort of legal procedural set at a dinner party, with The Invisible Hand, a hostage drama with an economic twist.

Nick Bright, top trader for an American bank in Karachi, is being held by Islamist kidnappers in a cell in the Pakistani badlands. Bright understands that his ransom has been set so high that his employers will never pay it. In one of the script’s many nice fiscal ironies, the financier’s life has been priced out of the market.

The trader, though, comes up with a rescue plan. If his captors give him online access to the markets, he will raise millions for them in deals in exchange for his release. If this plot were a stock, you would buy it, and Akhtar invests it with numerous profitable paradoxes and political reflections.


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