'Bank On It' – Theatre-Rites
On the day of the Chancellor’s spending review addressing the economic crisis, I fittingly find myself at ‘The Bank’, a creation of Theatre-Rites in conjunction with the Barbican, Create London and University of Warwick. The cash machine is broken and the door is locked. Led by five frustrated customers, we chase a bank manager down to an office where files of customers’ personal information are kept.
Theatre-Rites are expert in surprises – give too much away and the magic is lost. Previous productions, including ‘Houseworks’, ‘Shopworks’ and ‘Finders Keepers’, invited audiences to a house, a shop and a museum, then led us into secret rooms where things got animated and puppets appeared from nowhere. This new production transports us to another such enchanted space.
This time round, Theatre-Rites deploy puppets and carefully constructed objects to talk about mortgages, personal information and debt. A filing cabinet morphs into a mouthy creature who safeguards customers’ personal information in his stomach. Each file, in the form of pop-up book, reveals the purchases that have driven the customers into debt.
From a copy of Financial Times, the five performers become entwined in a direct quote – “the adoption of the fiscal compact and its ongoing implementation, together with growth enhancing policies…” – and playfully turn the FT’s convoluted language into a song. Small cards with "money" written on them fly out of the more understandable Hackney Gazette. Behind the wall there is a shabby looking ‘Regulator’ puppet, who manages incomings and outgoings with an abacus. The puppets and objects not only mediate complicated issues of finances but also captivate their young audience.
The hesitant bank manager finally invites us to follow him into the bank’s safe. Some might expect to see money but instead we see things that are in danger of disappearing, such as bees, water, trees and minerals. We realise the bank manager is more interested in keeping the environment outside the bank safe, and that Theatre-Rites want this performance to highlight the things that are really valuable.
Co-commissioned by the Barbican, Theatre-Rites and Create London, in association with Warwick Arts Centre and the Economics Department of the University of Warwick. The idea was by This is Tomorrow - an innovative residency devised by Warwick Arts Centre and produced by China Plate, connecting artists and academics at the University of Warwick.