Reviewed – 29th April 2021
“credit goes to this group of five actors whose dialogue flows naturally despite the socially-distanced situation“
Money by Isla van Tricht is a play written for the time of lockdown, created as a virtual and interactive production performed live and experienced via Zoom. But there is no sitting back to just watch this show as each member of the audience has a role to play. We are invited into a meeting between five members of a charity on the brink of collapse, but which has been offered a large life-saving donation. At the end of the meeting we will get to vote whether the charity should accept the money or not.
Appearing on film is the inscrutable Jennifer Anders (Mel Giedroyc), CEO of the philanthropic corporation, telling us, “We want to give back. We want to make a difference” but the source of the money appears to be ethically questionable. Can the charity in all good conscience accept the donation suspecting that it comes from all the bad things in the world that they campaign against?
The design of the production is clever, exploiting technology into a theatrical media. Our virtual theatre is a computer screen with five boxes each containing one of our five characters. With the movements of his actors limited, the Director (Guy Woolf) concentrates on subtleties to provide visual variation. Glenn (Aaron Douglas) takes a drink of water and gesticulates demonstrably. Angela (Sarel Madziya) for the most part passionate, on another occasion looks demure, embarrassed – “Now would be a good time for a hug” – and she looks away from her camera, no longer able to look us in the eye; Kaia (Nemide May) moves forward towards her camera as her passion rises so her head fills our screen. Avery (Adam Rachid Lazaar) leaves his seat in frustration and we see him in miniature at the far end of his room unsure of where to turn. Flo (Loussin-Torah Pilikian) sits bemusedly centre screen, confused by inner doubts.
There is no set, of course, as such. Each character sits in their Zoom box on our screen. What can we learn from the pristine or cluttered background image behind them? An electric guitar, their own graduation photograph, an obscure national flag (or is it a pride statement?), flowers (from the garden or from an admirer?), a piece of modern art, a picture of a tiger… A bit of something to hint at the private life of each of them.
On two occasions, the meeting divides into breakout rooms and the audience chooses where to go. We absorb the scene in front of us but wonder what we are missing in the other room. In these scenes the conversation turns to the personal and we discover more about each character. It is this slow transfer of information that becomes the focus of interest.
Great credit goes to this group of five actors whose dialogue flows naturally despite the socially-distanced situation. They all remain focused throughout, aware that on Zoom they are always on stage. But the dialogue itself is too often not absorbing enough for the length of the play. Once we understand the dilemma and we see where each character stands, it is the personal circumstances and backstory of each character that becomes more involving. But nothing quite goes far enough and, in the end, despite everyone being involved in the crucial vote, the principal dilemma is somewhat lacking.
Reviewed by Phillip Money
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