Ontroerend Goed's satirical casino dares us to recreate the credit crunch
Last year’s show from prolific Belgian provocateurs Ontroerend Goed was ‘World Without Us', a delicate, devastating monologue that imagined the Earth post-humanity. Predictably they’ve charged off in completely the opposite direction this year, amping things up with a wickedly enjoyable new offering about the global financial crash. Call it interactive theatre or call it a satirical party game, but ‘£¥€$ (LIES)’ is a show about the credit crunch that make us complicit.
The room is full of gambling tables, each hosting seven audience members and a croupier. Each table is a country, and each audience member is one of the country’s banks. We begin the show by cashing in: £1 buys £1m, though in a merciful irony you can’t actually lose money. Then we make low risk investments: stake £1m and roll a three-plus on a die and you get double your money. It is fun, because it’s gambling, and gambling is fun. Slowly additional rules creep in: we can make riskier investments with higher returns if successful. Bonds appear, whole value is based upon the country’s credit rating, most of which seem to be on an upward trajectory. Our soothing, earnest croupier encourages us to take more risks. The fateful words ‘too big to fail’ emerge.
Do we learn anything about global economics? I mean actually, yeah: I don’t feel like I’m a qualified investment banker now (though who actually is?), but I probably do understand a little more about things like shorting and bonds. Is that really the point? Probably not. The point is that we know where this is all heading, but we do it anyway, because it’s fun, and it’s a thrill, and perhaps we harbour a sneaky fantasy that we might be able to beat the odds. And yes, obviously we’re aware there are no global ramifications of to a night at the theatre, but I went in thinking I might play the game ethically and ending up being swayed by adrenaline and peer pressure. It’s a tiny insight into the sort of jacked-up mindset that caused the crash – and it’s awkwardly seductive, daring us to say we wouldn’t have done the same.