What is money? For Belgian theatre group Ontroerend Goed, money isn’t actually metal coins or pieces of paper with numbers printed on them, no, money is so much more than a physical object. Money is trust. And the more you invest in trust then the more you get back. This is the simple (yet dangerous) premise that
A seriously clever piece of theatre
The Upper Church at Summerhall has been transformed into a casino, with audience members split into small groups to play at betting tables with a croupier to guide us through the next 2 hours of being the 1%. Naturally, you have to spend money to make money and as money is trust we have to deposit our own cash in order to play the game and win big - this motif continues throughout the whole show, subtly yet undeniably manipulating us to risk more and more for greater returns.
The cast speak in unison, welcoming us to the show and explaining the rules of the game. Along with the rotating, monolithic stock market index in the centre and the dimmed lighting, this introduction provides a somewhat cultish atmosphere as we’re encouraged to worship money and the pursuit of it. The game starts off nice and simple with casino chips representing our capital and dice rolls representing our luck in investments. As the game progresses we move from investing in real goods to service economies and then eventually into abstract concepts with ever higher risks and returns. The company cleverly make sure each aspect of the game corresponds to an element of the financial world, making a seemingly impenetrable subject engaging, if not entirely understandable, and thus further mirroring the complexity of investment banking.
However, in the back of our minds we all know that this bubble is eventually going to burst. I’m sure we could, theoretically, break the game’s mechanics so as to avoid a crash but as we’re all split into separate groups with no way of truly comprehending the bigger picture, the game’s design ensures that we only ever think about ourselves. This is a seriously clever piece of theatre that plays you as much as you play it, effectively highlighting the structural problems of modern day capitalism without ever resorting to preaching or attempting to provide a solution other than to continue playing the game and invest in “trust” again.