The Theatreguide.London Review
The Game Show
Bush Theatre February 2013
A very clever – sometimes perhaps too clever – attempt to explain the recent and current financial crisis through party games actually achieves its ends, though you may have to wait until you're through having fun and think about it for its ideas to sink in.
Clare Duffy's text, which she directs, has three strands – a simple explanation of what happened to the world economy in the past decade, a drama of the experience of a pair of fictional hedge fund operators, and the demonstration through audience-participation games of how the fun of playing made the immense amounts of money involved become unreal.
The first is achieved efficiently as the two performers, Lucy Ellinson and Brian Ferguson, offer a quick narrative of events - American banks started giving home mortgages to people they knew couldn't pay because the banks quickly sold the mortgages on to bigger banks, who packaged the debt in investments so complex that the ultimate buyers, like the banks in Iceland and Britain, didn't really know what they were getting. And then the American homeowners started defaulting on their mortgages.
The second strand is the weakest, as too little time is given to it for us to become fully involved in the frustrations of the woman trying to warn her bank superiors that a crash was coming or the despair of the man who used complex hedging investments to profit from the crash and then let his greed keep him from cashing out in time.
Part of that strand's weakness comes from the need of the actor and actress to keep interrupting it to lead audience volunteers and cheering sections in a string of party games to illustrate the excitement of high finance, and much of the evening consists of just cheering your players on.
It may well be only long afterwards that you realise the symbolic appropriateness of the games – keeping a soap bubble afloat as long as possible, inflating a balloon as big as possible, and so on – and the excitement of the moment will almost certainly blind you to the fact that the thousands of actual pound coins onstage are being thrown about as casually as real traders manipulated billions.
The evening's success depends on its unflagging high energy, and the burden of sustaining that rests on the two performers, who must blend the established text with a lot of improvising around what happens in the games and how the audience responds. Lucy Ellinson and Brian Ferguson work admirably, but there is almost inevitably some unevenness and the occasional lapse in control.
Ultimately you may not learn all that much from Money, but you will see how the excitement of high finance – the game of it all – could have blinded so many to the realities.
Review - Money The Game Show - Bush Theatre 2013
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