The Money at The Chamber, London County Hall
There is something to be said for the power to make an audience squirm in their seats, but The Money is not a piece of Artaudian Theatre of Cruelty. Its cringeworthiness comes from stage lights bearing down on a profoundly un-self-aware participant, who embarrasses not only herself, but the entire notion of this performance piece.
To recap: The Money is part performance, part game show; the producers would like it called immersive theatre. Ticket-buying players sit around a table in the grand London County Hall, where they must decide what to do with a lump of cash placed before them (at this performance it was £270). They cannot split the money, nor give it to a registered charity. The twist is that any member of the audience, dubbed “silent witnesses”, may enter at any point to blow the meeting up or smooth it over. If they fail to unanimously sign an agreement within one hour, the cash will roll over to the next performance.
This is an intriguing concept with ostensibly limitless possibilities. One participant, a teacher, wanted the money to diversify her school curriculum. Another suggested investing in crypto. One man wanted a new carpet. But sadly these voices were drowned out by a sozzled barrister lording her superiority over the other players. She constantly interrupts the other increasingly frustrated participants. She threatens to shoot down any notion of doing good with the money: “Shut up about your fucking school,” she snaps at one point, before suggesting they throw the money in the Thames. The fetishisation of wealth and waste is disgusting. It has the essence of a live “Karen” video.
Other participants begin to question whether she is a plant, but no, this is her. She’s seen the piece before, as a contestant, and thinks she can do it better. “This has been an amazing piece of theatre,” Karen announced to the audience, a few minutes before the time ran out. Perhaps, but not in the way you think it. If The Money is to work as a concept, the producers must find a way to stop car crashes like this, and not write it off, with a wink, as a “social experiment”.
Photo: Prudence Upton
The Money is at The Chamber, London County Hall from 26th May until 18th July 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for the production here: