Zoo Venue – Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Denmark’s Teater Katapult’s present “The Insider”- a work that successfully turns complex accounting law into a mesmerising theatrical event. This is a play by writer Anna Skov Jensen about the Cum-Ex strategy: an illicit and intricate scheme that saw over billions robbed from European treasuries and illegally paid out to a complex network of lawyers and bankers, taking advantage of the labyrinthine bureaucracy surrounding share dividend rebates. Mmm- it took me a while to get into it.
A young unnamed lawyer, played by Christoffer Hvidberg Rønje, is in a Perspex box which becomes the places in which he operates and his prison. Through projection and lighting effects, we learn how he is drawn into the scheme, helps recruit others, and how the complex crime actually takes place. From interrogation room to business meetings, nightclubs to his home and even in the shower, we eavesdrop as his life unravels. It’s an emotional, physical, and technically astute performance.
Through binaural headsets for the audience, we are fed distorted versions of his voice and other voices, arguing, or conversing with him. We hear every breath, every scrape of pen on paper, every thrilling movement within the cube, and the lines of the characters he connects with. “The Insider” is like a radio-play and makes for an intensely voyeuristic immersive and nightmarish experience.
The young lawyer and father draws cartoon figures and piles of cash on the walls as he is seduced into embezzling millions as he beings to believe he’s not part of society, he’s above it: an apex predator, feeding on invisible victims. Christoffer Hvidberg Rønje is compelling to watch as he tumbles into cocaine binges, rages at his children, and tries to justify himself to incredulous prosecutors. In one scene he uses golden glitter to suggest a drug binge and the incredible wealth he is attracting. It sticks to his sweat glistened skin, and he looks like a god who is falling from grace as he crawls, jumps, and dives around his prison.
It is hard going to stick to all the facts and figures and it’s tricky to empathise with the guy who you know is in the wrong – this isn’t an easy work. We know these dudes didn’t get away with it – but they could have. The imagery and technical wizardry certainly dress up a Faustian pact. Anna Skov Jensen’s play is a unique reflection on greed and the cost of succumbing to temptation.