Ontroerend Goed’s latest show, LIES, invites you to get under the skin of the very rich – the investors and bankers who oil the cogs of the machinery that make our (economic) world go round. For one night only, you get the chance to make the decisions on their behalf. To invest or not to invest. To risk or not to risk. To accumulate debt and therefore potentially acquire more wealth and therefore, make the world a better – or at least, more solvent – place.
If audience participation makes you think of a pantomime, scrub that thought and start over. You’re invited to take a seat at a (beautifully designed and polished) table in the Upper Church at Summerhall. Your host explains that you’re now a brand new bank. You’re invited to invest any money in your possession in return for chips and you’re then presented with a variety of investment opportunities. I had a meagre £2.82 about my person so was single-handedly responsible for our table / “bank’s” initially poor credit rating. But my co-bankers came better prepared so we soon – exhilaratingly – soared.
Without giving too much away, this piece of genuinely immersive theatre is a thrilling window into the market dynamics. The perverse value of debt. The peculiar ebbs and flows of currency values. And the compelling dynamism of hope – or greed.
As fascinating as the performers themselves and the decisions you’re asked to make is the chance to observe your tablemates at work and the insight into their psychology. I was seated between a former venture capitalist who darkly prophesied doom at every turn and an excitable lady who shrieked and giggled her way through it, declaring that she couldn’t understand anything. It’s an extraordinary study of behaviour under pressure, attitude towards risk and vaulting ambition (or caution from the venture capitalist) in action.
As the venture capitalist commented once the show was done, more could be done to mirror the real-life vagaries of the market if Oetroerend Goed wanted to up the stakes for the audience. But for this non-venture capitalist, it was a mesmerising demonstration of why the (financial) world – and, in a broader sense, the whole human race – so often gets itself into such a pickle.
Unsurprisingly, halfway through the Fringe, they’re currently sold out for the rest of the run. But if you can beg, borrow or steal a ticket from somewhere, your bank balance may thank you for it in the long run.