CHAPTER ARTS CENTRE, CARDIFF
Tue 19 Apr
As we are drawn into the financially obsessed 1980s setting of Serious Money, we quickly learn that trading isn’t just a vocation. Rather, it is an obsessive distortion of the everyday, where takeovers are celebrated like birthdays and crushes are monitored like fluctuating share-prices. If this intelligent parody teaches us anything, it’s that the stock market isn’t an environment you can enter half-heartedly. To emphasise this point with the subtlety of the Black Monday Crash, Caryl Churchill’s script bluntly informs us that, ‘You can’t play ball if you keep off the grass’. In their take on this retrospectively modern world, inventive new company Waking Exploits have also brought this go-getting expression to heart: their stage is coated in turf.
The mood of this production seems to be the complete antithesis to any interpretation of the words ‘serious’ and ‘money’. Walking across an artificial lawn taking in the plucked melody of English Country Garden and witnessing fountains fashioned from spit, we are surrounded by the surreal from the moment we enter into the theatre. Grouped together chanting, braying and barking, members of the cast form peculiar embodiments of the outdoors which initially expose an odd juxtaposition between rural and urban. Yet this apparent opposition is developed in just one of this production’s mischievous attempts at unsettling our understanding; shattering the boundaries, even what we understand as natural is exposed as a man-made construct.
First performed in 1987, the relevance of this play today is almost too clear. In fact if you turn a blind eye to the shoulder pads, Serious Money could be a work penned especially for our era. A wickedly thought-provoking parody of financial excess and corruption, Churchill’s script is welcomed into the twenty-first century and presented to a new audience with director Mathilde Lopez’s eccentric fingerprints all over it. Oddball characters unite to form wickedly amusing couples and unlikely stylistic pairings are pitched together as the play takes on numerous performance genres and models them with comfort.
As you leave the theatre crossing back over turf now covered in money and bullets in a final image of degenerate artifice, it’s extremely unlikely you will have heard every word, absorbed every detail or digested every idea. Surprisingly this only adds to the performance. Fresh and engaging, Waking Exploits channel not just the financial focus of New York and London, the two cities they represent, but the creativity and excitement of these metropolises.
first published on buzzmag.co.uk