Stick or twist? Immersive theatre piece puts audience in the role of banker

Summary

A new production by Ghent-based theatre company Ontroerend Goed confronts its audience with questions of morality and invites them to play the system

The banker inside

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, we all blamed the greedy bankers and the 1% of the population who were making short-term profit at the expense of the other 99%. Often for good reason, but also without really asking ourselves what we would have done in their shoes.

In £¥€$ (Lies), director Alexander Devriendt and his Ghent-based theatre company Ontroerend Goed not only confront their audience with the prospect of a lot of money, they let everyone see how it feels to call the shots and play the system from within.

On a gambling table you can discover the ins and outs of the perfidious financial system, and  perhaps even get a deeper understanding of where it all went wrong. But, more importantly, you’ll find out if you’re someone who hangs on to their principles, or someone who takes the more exciting road to becoming the king of the casino (read: capitalism), while betting on the loss of others, possibly your neighbours.

Right from the start, the croupiers clarify that not everyone is equal. To make money, you need money (or a loan). Now, you really begin to understand why Devriendt quoted William Crawford when introducing £¥€$. Crawford, the commissioner of the California department of savings and loans pointed out that “the best way to rob a bank is to own one.”

With their Personal Trilogy — The Smile off your Face, Intern and A Game of You (2009) the experience-based theatre of Ontroerend Goed has already proved to be an excellent mirror to society. Directing their smart scripts towards more global awareness, Fight Night investigated human voting behaviour and, now, £¥€$ is a reality-driven psychological mind-melt, showing the lies – or, as the title suggests, the money – in our eyes.

From this week the mind games play out in Plymouth in the UK, before taking the stage at the Edinburgh Fridge Festival and returning to Flanders in autumn.

Photo: Thomas Dhanens