Before heading out to see this I spent a little too long during the day watching Parliament TV, including a depressing performance from Jeremy Hunt trying to rewrite history – claiming that the reason we cannot afford sufficient mental health nurses is all because of previous governments wasting too much money on public services. About two minutes into ‘The Audit’ by Proto-type theatre I wished that I could get hold of Hunt and nail his feet to the Norwich Arts Centre floor until this show was done.
Unlike the utterances of many Tory ministers this was a piece of agitprop theatre based on clearly evidenced facts, analysing exactly how and why we are all being oppressed by the after effects of unregulated banking corruption and failure. Now this may sound like worthy but dull theatre playing to a handful of the already converted, but the show was well attended and beautifully presented by Rachel Baynton and Gillian Lees who gave us an elegant call to arms against the world of banking.
The two performers did not look like a theatre company on tour. Immaculately dressed and with a pristine glass lectern apiece they stood each side of a back projected screen with continuously changing images, often in rather amusing juxtapositions. The collapse of the banking world in 2008 was set in the context of events in Iceland, where small banks found themselves hopelessly compromised with billions in unsupported debts. They showed us exactly how some business-driven deregulation in America led directly to the turmoil that has been used as an excuse for ‘austerity’ and destruction of public services by right wing governments for a decade since then.
The Icelandic aspect allows a personal narrative to accompany the polemic, showing how the greed of the world banking elite can affect the details of our daily lives. We live in a complex and inter-related society where we are over-dependent on financial structures to define much of how we relate to each other – yet money is something with no intrinsic value to us at all. You cannot eat money, or live under it and keep warm. Yet it rules our lives.
The Audit, written and directed by Andrew Westerside, is a a joyful and entertaining piece that gives a very clear understanding of how we got to where we are now. In Iceland, the people rose in anger and took to banging their pots and pans in protest. It worked. The Government was thrown out, the bankers jailed and the country started its return to decency. Rachel and Gillian gave us a simple message at the end of their show – time to pick up those pots and pans and follow the Icelanders in rebuilding a decent community.
If you get a chance to see this show don’t miss it, even if you would normally avoid political theatre. But if you see Hunt or his colleagues nearby, have a bag of nails handy too.
© Julian Swainson 2018
Proto-type are a company of multi-disciplinary artists led by Rachel Baynton, Gillian Lees, and Andrew Westerside. The company has been making work and supporting young artists in the US, the Netherlands, Russia, China, Armenia, France, Zimbabwe and the UK since 1997. Read more here: www.proto-type.org
Read more about The Audit in our earlier article: http://norwicheye.co.uk/whats-on/new-play-from-hit-theatre-company-comes-to-norwich-as-part-of-national-tour-intelligent-creative-and-beautifully-written/