The Power of Yes
Until May 30 @ Belvoir St
A play by David Hare, about the Global Financial Crisis, is a fairly irresistible proposition for any theatre company, I imagine. Commissioned by London’s prestigious National Theatre in 2008, The Power of Yes holds forth the tantalising prospect of debunking all the jargon and hysteria around one of this decade’s defining historical moments, where capitalism fell to its knees.
The challenge, however, is making The Power of Yes sparkle on stage like it does on the page. Hare has transposed his interviews with various players in the realm of finance into characters (in some cases using their own words as dialogue), and has arranged the resulting information in a roughly chronological timeline, from 80s Thatcherism to the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Hare inserts himself into the script, where he acts as a guide; adopting a position of financial ignorance, he asks questions on our behalf. What, for instance, are these ‘credit default swaps’, or ‘securitised credit arrangements’, that everyone’s been talking about? Ultimately, however, Hare is trying to get to the psychological root of this madness that we call the financial sector.
Director Sam Strong does an admirable job of making this production more than just twelve people talking about finance. For example, balloons become not only colourful counterpoints to the parade of suits, but handy visual aids for illustrating the bundling, slicing and dicing of financial assets (not to mention the more obvious financial metaphors). The set itself feels like a classroom or lecture theatre, in which we and ‘The Author’ (Brian Lipson) are the students, listening to a rotating cycle of lecturers – from politicians to financial journalists, fund managers, bankers, and financial entrepreneurs like George Soros. Apart from the Author, the characters are in more-or-less constant movement on and off stage and across it, maintaining a certain energy and rhythm to the exchanges.
The Power of Yes presents a captivating story, and is far more enlightening than the bulk of journalism about the GFC. At the end of the day, however, the nature of this beast is that it’s very “talky”, so staying tuned-in for the duration does, at times, feel like a struggle – albeit worthwhile!