Review of 'The Money' at London County Hall
This review was written on behalf of North West End UK and was originally published here.
If you only had sixty minutes to make a potentially life-changing decision with a group of strangers you’ve never met before, what do you think could happen? Would you keep your nerves and follow a logical and rational decision-making process or allow yourself to be swayed by the emotion and energy of the room? And what happens when you know you’re being watched?
No, these aren’t hypothetical questions asked in a job interview (those are nerve-wracking as it is) but the central dilemma of an interactive theatre piece called ‘The Money’ by Exeter-based production studio Kaleider.
Photography from the 2017 Sydney production by Prudence Upton
This show invites you, the audience, to be in-charge of deciding how to spend a briefcase full of money (amounting to GBP £240 at the start of the night) along with a group of other strangers. Presented at the council chamber of the grand County Hall building in Waterloo, which served as the headquarters for the local government of London until the mid-1980s, it’s this choice of this historical site as a performance venue that contextualises (and reminds) the audience of their role in the action – if you want things to go your way, you have to take a stand and say something. Whilst signing up, you can choose to be a ‘Player’ who gets an active say in deciding what (or who) the money goes towards (and doesn’t go towards). Otherwise, you can settle being a ‘Silent Witness’ and watch the hour-long process unfold. Don’t agree with the players on how to spend the money? You can choose to ‘buy in’ for a seat at the table right up until the last second. The question remains – where do you stand? But where do you stand? Will you help or hinder? By the end of the hour, the players must reach a unanimous decision on how the money will be spent and sign the contract. If they fail at reaching a consensus, the money rolls over to the next set of players on another evening.
At the centre of The Money is an exploration of the human psyche and how we navigate a complex, collaborative process of making a singular decision with strangers whom we know nothing about. Does this lack of familiarity facilitate an honest, straightforward communication or does it prevent one from going beyond the superficial small talk? From the moment they sat down to the moment they got up, the players when through the full cycle of a typical ‘first meeting’ – the awkward hellos, the nervous introductions, the occasional talking over each other, followed almost immediately by an overly polite apology – until it reached a point where they simply had to move beyond the small talk and reach a concrete decision. On the other end, there were ample Silent Witnesses who bought their way to sit at the Players’ table throughout the night, each entry raising the stakes not just metaphorically but also literally, with the total amount of money exceeding well over GBP £500 by the end of the night. The dual urgency created by the increasing pot and the decreasing time is what makes The Money such a compelling experience to watch even if you’re not in the thick of action, for each player’s voice has a simple consequence – it costs time. There is minimal guidance (or interruption) by the organizers and it’s left entirely up to the players’ to see where they end up as time runs out.
To summarize, The Money is a playfully urgent piece of interactive theatre where the minimal rules succeed in creating a complex playground of possibilities of where (or to whom) the money can go to. When the stakes are this high and the clock is ticking away, you can barely look away.
The Money by Kaleider runs at the Chamber, County Hall in Waterloo until 18th July. You can choose to be a Silent Witness and watch, or a Player and take part in the action. Learn more and sign up at https://themoney.live/
Presented by Eleanor Lloyd Productions, Eilene Davidson Productions and Kate Pakenham Productions.
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 2nd June 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★