£¥€$ (Lies) at Almeida Theatre
Innovative Belgian production company Ontroerend Goed returns tonight with £¥€$ (Lies), a riveting, interactive and off-beat show about the global financial economy.
As audience members enter the dark room, they are shown to one of ten tables, named as a country after the first person who sits, for example Carol becomes Carolloco. A dealer sits behind the table, just like in a casino, and each of the seven participants represent the country’s banks. These dealers are joined by other personnel, such as floor-persons and supervisors, who walk around providing chips and bonds for players. Dressed in black, the cast exude a sense of authority and knowledge in this high-stakes – albeit hypothetical – game. Money handed to the dealer is not technically gambled, but put away safely in envelopes and returned at the end. As Lies advances, the show feels less like a theatre production and more like a complicated game of Monopoly, where, instead of buying properties, theatregoers invest in agriculture, technology and the arts, with bonds, loans and “fractional reserve banking”; the croupier coerces players to invest in higher bids, with anecdotes like, “You have to spend money to make money’. Teams are also graded during the course of the piece, from A to C, depending on their credit ratings.
The sound of the gong begins the game and intermittently echoes throughout the performance. As investments are made with chips worth millions, we enter a world as part of the wealthy 1% population. It is a bizarre and strangely gratifying feeling when lucking out on good investments, and there are funny moments, like when players are punished with a red die for tax evasion, adding a sense of reality to the piece.
Lies is not for everyone. It does, however, feel like a dream scenario for accountants, tax employees, financial experts and other individuals who enjoy working with money. As interaction develops, the floor intensifies like that of a stock market, with banks crashing requiring bailouts; it is a little challenging to stay on top of the game and its complicated rules.
Ontroerend Goed, and more specifically artistic director Alexander Devriendt, has devised a complex but ultimately interesting method in which to observe the intricacies of today’s economy through live interaction, making us realise how little we know about money, though used everyday.
Photo: Thomas Dhanens
£¥€$ (Lies) is at Almedia Theatre from 1st until 18th August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.