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Drama out of a credit crisis

PUBLISHED: 15:44 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 16 August 2010

THE POWER OF YES by David Hare, National Theatre 2009
JOHN HOLLINGWORTH (left) as A Northern Echo journalist and ANTHONY CALF (right) as The Author

THE POWER OF YES by David Hare, National Theatre 2009 JOHN HOLLINGWORTH (left) as A Northern Echo journalist and ANTHONY CALF (right) as The Author

IT is more than a year since Capitalism collapsed and the credit crisis became the topic that everyone was talking about. Queues formed outside

IT is more than a year since Capitalism collapsed and the credit crisis became the topic that everyone was talking about.

Queues formed outside Northern Rock, the government bailed out the banks and homes and businesses were repossessed.

But how did it all happen? Didn't the banks see it coming?

The National Theatre has attempted to answer this question by funding David Hare's latest stage documentary in The Power of Yes at the Lyttelton.

Following on from an investigation into the lead up to the war in Iraq in Stuff Happens and the privatisation of rail travel in The Permanent Way, Hare has now attempted to answer how we got into such a mess - and who exactly is responsible.

Using verbatim interviews with academics, bankers, MPs and journalists, Hare attempts to look under the bonnet of our economy to work out what caused Capitalism to break down.

If the sound of a two-hour discussion about the economic downturn doesn't fill you with excitement, then clearly you side with Hare himself who uses his own ignorance of the financial crisis to both entertain and educate.

It is not so much a play, more a dramatisation of the research that the National Trust funded in order for Hare to write one, yet it is strangely absorbing

The opening sequence has a stream of bankers tell the author (Anthony Calf) how to write the play - perhaps a reference to the blatant irony that a playwright has turned critic, a theme that reappears later on.

"For God's sake don't tell them we're all b*****ds, they already think that, you'll just be telling them what they already think," quips one banker.

Another urges him to write a comedy, and another tells him it is more Shakespearean tragedy with countless bodies on the stage.

Hare seems to have taken all of these suggestions on board, throwing light on both audacious comedy of the situation and the unsettling horror of its consequences.

As one contributor puts it: "It's like a ship which you're being told is in apple-pie order, the decks are cleaned, the metal is burnished, the only thing nobody mentions: it's being driven at full speed towards an iceberg."

While being taken through economic 'risk' equations by expert Masa Serdarevic (Jemima Rooper) the author takes a chronological journey through the last year interviewing hedge fund managers, bankers, industrialists and private equity investors.

The narrative also lends itself to introducing Fred The Shred as a kind of panto villain and when Gordon Brown's tenure as Chancellor was criticised, the audience nearly jeered and booed - it felt like the expenses row on Question Time.

When things get a little too complicated, director Angus Jackson helps the audience by introducing each character as if they are speakers in a debate and presents each 'lecture' with a variety of projections to keep your interest at its peak.

The Power of Yes has both the potential to utterly depress you and give you butterflies.

On one hand it shines a light on how capitalism has been replaced by a socialism that only helps the rich get richer.

While on the other hand, it acts as a stark warning to bankers and government alike that the power they enjoy will only last as long as the public gives their consent.

* The Power of Yes is at the Lyttelton Theatre until January 2012, call the box office on 020 7452 3000 or go to www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/buytickets.

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