MONEY the Game Show

May 24, 2014 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩   Serious fun

Traverse Theatre  Fri 23 May – Sat 24 May 2014

An extremely clever idea lies behind MONEY the Game Show, Clare Duffy’s play, which originated with the Platform 18: New Directions Award and now returns to the Traverse for a two night run.

Suzanne Robertson and Stuart Ryan. Photo © Unlimited

Suzanne Robertson and Stuart Ryan. Photo © Unlimited

Hedge fund managers turned performance artists, Queenie and Casino, lead the audience through a series of games to win a pile of real money – while filling in their personal back stories and demonstrating how the bursting of the US housing bubble caused the financial crash of 2008.

Writer and director Duffy has certainly hit on a winning formula, while the co-production by Unlimited Theatre and Bush Theatre has high production values and a couple of strong performances. However, some of the piece’s huge potential remains unfulfilled.

The game show element of the piece is entered into with gusto and glee by both performers and audience, and provides diverting entertainment. A pile of £10,000 pound coins looks disappointingly small on the stage, but provides a suitable focus and there is no doubt that the concept is an intriguing one.

However, a real-life game show with a series of such similar games would not last long on TV. The constant use of bubbles and balloons may be apt in terms of financial metaphors, but means that the show starts to repeat itself despite the efforts of the performers. There is also not enough information offered to the audience in terms of what they are risking or what ‘hedging’ actually means – while this is entirely appropriate in terms of what happened in real life, it takes away from the audience’s involvement in the games.

There is enough to keep the audience’s interest, however, and the attitude displayed to the pile of money demonstrates the show’s real strength. Repeating a perfectly ordinary word like ‘spoon’ divorces the sound of the word from what it represents and reminds you how strange words actually can be. Similarly, after a while, you stop thinking of the coin mound in terms of real money and just think of how your team can win.

“proves both diverting and thought-provoking”

This reinforces the hosts’ conviction that ‘money isn’t real… it’s a game’ and shows how those responsible for the financial crash treat everything as a hypothetical activity with no real victims.  If the most important thing at stake is whether they can still get their bonuses, it becomes irrelevant that their exploits mean people lose their livelihoods, their pensions and their homes.

Suzanne Robertson and Stuart Ryan. Photo © Unlimited

Suzanne Robertson and Stuart Ryan. Photo © Unlimited

The show is very good at reminding us of this and could be even better if the more personal elements showing Queenie and Casino’s stories were slightly stronger. As it is, the tone of these is as cartoonish as the game show, moving from flat to hysterical with little light and shade. This diminishes the human element that might add an extra dimension.

Suzanne Robertson (Queenie) is animated and lively, while Stuart Ryan manages to inject some necessary pathos into Casino’s back-story, but this part of the piece still manages to feel more like filler compared to the whooping showbiz of the game show. The evocation of real-life events should be more brutal and more scary than it ultimately proves to be.

Rhys Jarman’s design provides a suitable backdrop, while Matt Angove’s sound and David Edwards’s music are carefully used. Overall, there has been a great deal of thought and invention put into this show and it certainly proves both diverting and thought-provoking.

Yet it is such a clever premise that you cannot help feeling that it could be even better. It certainly starts to repeat itself a little, and a shorter, tighter, more frenetic hour might be more successful. A full-length show with greater variety might also work, but at the moment it is neither one thing nor the other.

Running time 1 hours 45 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street EH1 2ED
Run ends Saturday 24 May 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm
Tickets from www.traverse.co.uk


Click on the image above to purchase the script from Amazon.

MONEY the Game Show on tour:

26-27 May, 2014 Edinburgh
Traverse
0131 228 1404 Book online
5 June, 2014 Greenock
Beacon Arts Centre
01475 723723 Book online
7 June, 2014 Cumbernauld
Cumbernauld Theatre
01236 732 887 Book online
18 June, 2014 Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234 234 Book online
20 June, 2014 Dunfermline
Carnegie Hall
01383 602 302 Book online
24-26 June, 2014 Dundee
Dundee Rep
01382 223530 Book online

ENDS

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