Hedge Fund Managers as Heroes at the Bush

'Money - The Game Show' - an intelligent, thought provoking production

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The decision to go to 'Money - The Game Show' wasn't mine. Our friends had heard it was good and invited us along, my wife accepting before I had a chance to think of an excuse.

The primary reason for my reluctance was that much was made of audience participation in the pre-publicity. I'm always happy to watch other people making fools of themselves but make it a rule not to volunteer to do this myself. A secondary reason was the expectation that it would basically be a dreary piece of agitprop complete with caricatures of greedy bankers.

Money The Gameshow at Bush Theatre

Initially, my fears looked justified. We were assembled in the foyer, split up into two teams and taken round the outside of the theatre by Lucy Ellinson playing Queenie. We were asked whether we had any particular talents - mine was not catching her eye and looking at my shoelaces. In the event she found people who could tell the weather in Dutch and Turkish. It was then back into the main theatre for the game to begin.

The first thing that attracted attention was a container with 10,000 one pound coins in it. These days it might only buy you an unglamorous car but it recalled pirate's chest filled to the brim with pieces of eight. I can't have been the only one thinking how it could be stolen - just theoretically of course. The insurance company had delegated a burly security man to stand just off stage and the sheer weight would probably have required a fork-lift truck to get it out of the theatre. The getaway along the Uxbridge Road would be problematic and even if the police station had already shut and you did manage to get away from the scene, how on earth are you going to spend £10,000 in coins? Every shopping trip would risk a hernia. Forget it.

The Game Show involved us (Queenie's team) betting against our opposition led by Casino (Brian Ferguson). The games generally involved blowing up or popping balloons and I was very relieved that there were always enough attention seekers in the audience that there was never any question of coerced participation.

The games were interspersed with a narrative about the experiences of Casino and Queenie as they worked in the City as hedge fund manager prior to the financial crisis. This was most definitely not international finance brought to you by the Occupy Movement, but rather an intelligent and clearly well-informed account of the slide of the global banking system into disaster. The writer was not afraid to test the audience with highly technical financial terms and did not pretend that what was happening was anything other than a highly complex series of events. There were obnoxious City wide boys and obnoxious Wall Street bankers plus you had to suspend disbelief somewhat when told that Casino and Queenie were the only people in the financial world who had worked out that excessive sub-prime lending might be unwise. Nevertheless, there was a sophistication to this play that eschewed trite answers. Even when our heroes tried to persuade the loud mouth American boss that their bank should short the sub=prime market he made the valid point about Soros's theory of reflexivity - shorting the market might just precipitate a crisis that would otherwise not have happened. At that point he was the moralist and our protagonists were the greedy opportunists.

The resolution of the play apparently depends on the outcome of the game show and the version I saw was unnecessarily melodramatic. Perhaps more unsettling was when the principal characters mused on the future of the global economy. By this stage they had enough credibility for you to take their gloomy prognostications seriously.

If you have preconceptions about the financial crisis that you don't want challenged then avoid this play. If want an evening which combines a fair degree of fun with a challenging, informative and insightful look and how we came to be in the mess we are in then you should see 'Money - The Game Show'.

Francis Kelly

Bush Local Offer - £12 preview tickets, 10% other performances

Dates - 31 Jan - 9 Mar
Mon - Sat - 7.30pm, £19.50 (£12 concessions)

For more details of Bush Savers' discounts and concessions, click here

Book online or call the box office on 020 8743 5050.

February 28, 2013