|How does that old saying go? “What would you do if everyone said yes?” While that might be a great hypothetical question to pose to a friend who can’t decide what the hell to do with their life, it seems that someone should have warned the world’s bankers that such an ‘airy fairy’ positive construct should in no way be applied to them. Perhaps, instead, someone could have suggested that a more appropriate motto for the people who held the planet’s purse strings to live by would be: “no means no.” Maybe then we could have avoided the calamity of August 2007 when the world’s financial institutions went into meltdown due to the subprime collapse that burst the liquidity “bubble”.Of course, I’m not claiming to be an expert in such matters, in fact, until recently if you’d asked this reviewer to tell you anything even vaguely financial the silence would have been deafening. However, that was all before I saw David Hare’snew play The Power of Yes, and now I can’t shut up about it. For not only does this intelligent finely crafted piece of theatre make the global financial crisis intelligible, it also makes finance – dare I say it – fun! And that is obviously no easy feat. Part of the genius of Hare’s text is his choice to locate himself within it as a character who’s a writer that’s seeking to research the financial crisis in order to write a play about it. In this he offers the audience a conduit through which all the information can pass in a manner that is entertaining and accessible. Throughout the course of this fast-paced and ferociously witty piece the playwright is circled by a competing series of financial heavy weights, characters that attempt to tell him the “story” of what went wrong. Thanks to the use of clever metaphors to explain concepts such as securitised credit: “you stub your toe and your elbow hurts” and the whole system of banks around the world holding each others bonds like cards in a game of Cluedo, the whole affair unfolds like a lively comedy heist filled with colourful characters who are all chasing that elusive big bag of cash.
Featuring a flawless cast including Rhys Muldoon, Marshall Napier, Christopher Stollery, Graham Rouse andLuke Mullins among others, who all talk the talk and walk the walk like bona fide bankers across a stage that’s strewn with multi-coloured balloons that have all been burst like the proverbial bubble, this is an exceptional production that’s also a hoot. The groovy jazz soundtrack (Steve Francis) and inspired stage design (Dale Ferguson) which includes a stage within a stage that’s viewed through a window which also acts as a whiteboard, combine to give this production a slick and polished feel that keep the audience’s imagination constantly engaged for the duration of this one-act marvel. The use too of inflated balloons in the play as props provides an inspired and playful way to illustrate the buoyant and upbeat attitudes of the times that led to the reckless actions of so many of the players involved in the markets’ undoing.
Forget all the dry, dull and confusing ideas you may have about finance, catch The Power Of Yes and you are guaranteed to come away buzzing with a new understanding that in the very least is sure to provide fertile fodder for your next meeting with your local bank manager.
Company B Belvoir presents
Directed by Sam Strong
Venue: Belvoir St Theatre, Upstairs Theatre | 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills
This review first appeared on Australian Stage April 2010