Rare Earth Mettle review – secret deals and wordy debates | Theatre

In Al Smith’s bold and cynical new play, everyone has a value and kindness is just ever a part of a deal.

On the centre of Rare Earth Mettle is the large expanse of lithium below the Bolivian salt flats the place Kimsa (Carlo Albán) lives together with his sick daughter. Bartering for the land is a billionaire CEO performed by Arthur Darvill. The play precipitated controversy earlier than it reached the stage when the unique naming of Darvill’s character, as Hershel Fink, was criticised for perpetuating antisemitic stereotypes. Extra investigation must be accomplished however the theatre has apologised for “unconscious bias” and the identify of the character – who is just not Jewish – has been modified to Henry Finn.

Rare Earth Mettle.
Elegantly ruthless … Jaye Griffiths in Rare Earth Mettle. {Photograph}: Helen Murray

Finn, very clearly a fictionalised Elon Musk, is determined to make use of the mineral to revolutionise electrical automobiles however comes up towards a determined-although-ethically-dodgy physician who believes it ought to be used medicinally (Genevieve O’Reilly). Each difficult and intelligent, the extremely researched script options big and assorted philosophical debates about energy and possession, as Kimsa and the native indigenous communities declare a proper over their lithium-laden land. Jaye Griffiths is elegantly ruthless as native politician Nayra, desirous to do the most effective for her group whereas having her sights set on higher management.

The place the play loses its grip on us is within the lack of tangible influence from all their mental entanglements and complicated political motivations. On this play, all the pieces is plot, a quick-spinning cycle of secret deals and wordy debates. We pace by means of gigantic change, together with literal edits to historical past, with little time to really feel the repercussions. And Kimsa’s daughter as the important thing emotional hook is barely used.

But it surely’s humorous, Darvill notably, who’s splendidly spry because the narcissistic, egomaniacal tech mogul. He dances across the stage in costly tracksuits, manipulating folks, geography and grief for his personal acquire, too wealthy to care about something, at the same time as his empire begins to crumble round him. Smith’s script additionally comprises some sensible comedy in the way in which it performs with language and miscommunication.

Rare Earth Mettle has monumental scope, however it tries to do an excessive amount of. There’s a second, very close to the top, the place a suggestion of a single motion is sort of a jackhammer, and the emotional influence of that makes you realise the way it’s been missing elsewhere. It’s extremely sensible, however there’s not fairly sufficient coronary heart.

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