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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Theatre – The Power of Yes – at the National Theatre

Star rating – 8/10

It is too soon to place the events that culminated in the near meltdown of the entire worldwide banking system in a drama? Has enough time passed for us to view the play and players critically and objectively? Can we yet understand exactly why it all happened? Interesting questions indeed, but David Hare’s latest play at the National Theatre does just that.

And it is a very enjoyable and stimulating play at that. The audience is faced with a constant stream of different players in the unfolding drama for an uninterrupted 1 hour 45 minutes, although the drama is pacey and thought provoking. It is also very funny in places, as we are being asked to laugh at the incredulity of it all – even at this short distance. If you didn’t laugh you would cry…

We are taken through events by the character of the playwright himself, played by Anthony Calf, as he works out the answers for himself in order to produce the play. The roots of the crisis, the assumptions made, the risks taken, and the fall out, is all explained through the eyes of journalists, academics, lawyers, politicians, and of course the bankers. Complex financial constructs are explained through these figures in a very accessible way. Who would ever have through we would be going to the theatre to hear about quantitative easing, leverage and toxic assets?

Everyone involved in the crisis seems to come from either Harvard, Goldman Sachs, or the Financial Times, as one character notes. It is a non stop journey through greed, incredible over inflated self confidence, and risk taking to take your breath away. And the powerful and very imaginative sets help to convey the key messages and context of the action. Fred Goodwin, the disgraced RBS Chief Executive is, for example, very effectively pictured in a series of Andy Warhol type coloured prints in a copy of his famous Marilyn Monroe work.

It is certainly great entertainment - gripping and very fast moving. Is it too soon to tell the tale? Well only time will tell, but David Hare has made a damn fine job of this immediate response to the economic madness that gripped the world, and from whose fallout we are all still suffering the effects.

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