Driving a global market to implosion, and spurring a financial crisis that causes widespread misery and uncertainty, really shouldn’t be this fun. Yet, the gleeful pursuit of profits in Ontroerend Goed’s new co-production is so satisfying you might well forget about the consequences.
Director Alexander Devrient’s immersive production finds an inspiring conceit for the last decade’s global downturn. Take a seat as one of the 1% at ornately carved tables that could be used for blackjack. Such entertainments blur in Nick Mattan and vormen’s superb stage design, with a centrepiece that also recalls monitors at the stock exchange. The world’s banks have been consolidated into a casino. Is the reality any less reckless or infuriating?
The cast come to us as traders and comptrollers, soft in their speech and armed with cultish rhetoric that marries cash and trust. “The market is flooded with optimism,” someone reports, as if money-making were a divine crusade. At our table, Aaron J Gordon’s dutiful and fast-thinking performance as a dealer gently persuades us to invest our real money (no more than £20, for fear of a monopoly) into our own bank. There’s a sly truth, of course, in that whoever has the deepest pockets starts the game with an advantage.
From here, Devrient’s script, co-written with Joeri Smet, Angelo Tijssens and Karolien De Bleser, uses fun rounds of gambling to take us through an unnerving evolution of banking. Starting simply with material investments, we eventually bid on more “specialised” products like hedge funds and private security. The returns become bigger as deposits and loans transform into currency. Shares and bonds can be sold before they’re even bought. Different banks merge to intensify competition. If you go broke don’t worry: the dealer will give you a loan.
How can this not lead to a meltdown? The production becomes suitably panicked, as it takes us all the way from prosperity to crash. Assets start to crumble and traders deal out bonds as if their lives depended on it. In watching it happen all over again, you wonder what’s been learned. Ontroend Goed, whose immersive theatre practice has resisted the escapism (an urge to party) of their contemporaries, suggest the outlook isn’t good.
By returning to an absurd endorsement of a greedy regime, the production is brilliantly Kafkaesque. The markets will open again without any new policy. Don’t worry – the real money you invested, you’ll get back. The debt you’re owed, less likely.
£¥€$ (LIES) is on at Summerhall until 27th August. Click here for more details.