February 11, 2013 5:27 pm

Money – The Gameshow, Bush Theatre, London

This drama engagingly explores the build-up to, and the aftermath of, the 2008 financial catastrophe
Brian Ferguson and Lucy Ellinson in ‘Money – The Gameshow’©Simon Kane

Brian Ferguson and Lucy Ellinson in ‘Money – The Gameshow’

The shallow metallic mound on the stage, resembling an unusually but not impossibly large cowflop, is composed of 10,000 one-pound coins; when writer/director Clare Duffy won an award, she decided to put the money onstage in the most literal sense. (It is accompanied, as an insurance condition, by a security guard.)

This is the principal prop of an evening in which two supposed former hedge fund managers explain the money market to us in a playful, interactive fashion. The process of first accumulating a stake, then of going long or short, and of hedging, is illustrated by party-type games involving members of the two “teams” into which the entire audience has been split. It all rather suggests that the term “casino banking” may be over-dignifying the activity.

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If this sounds over-reductive, the games alternate with dramatic scenes enacting the build-up to, and aftermath of, the 2008 catastrophe. Duffy’s co-producers (“co-investors”, as they are referred to here) Unlimited Theatre specialise in what might be called explanatory theatre, and Money credits a number of finance-sector consultants including this publication’s Jonathan Ford.

When William Gibson created his fictional forerunner of actual cyberspace in 1982, he described it as a “consensual hallucination”. This has always struck me as an equally fine description of the concept of money, and characters Queenie and Casino repeatedly observe that money works as an index of value only because, and to the extent that, we believe it does. (It is also a kind of Tinkerbell: clap hands, boys and girls, if you believe in currency.)

Interestingly, the least dramatically satisfying segment of the show is the final 20 minutes or so, which also comprise the most unalloyed “dramatic” section (the games are over) and which moreover describes where we are now; it is as if we can accept the absurdity of the boom and bust but not the uncertainty and foreboding of the past few years. The prevailing Chicago-school orthodoxy is hardly even alluded to, never mind questioned, but it is a telling analogy to portray the period post-2008 as the zombie apocalypse of capitalism. Brian Ferguson and in particular Lucy Ellinson marshal the audience well to keep us engaged through both the playful examples and, so to speak, the footnotes.


www.bushtheatre.co.uk

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