In The Money, you can choose to be a benefactor or a silent witness. Benefactors donate a minimum of ten pounds up to as much as they like and silent witnesses just buy an ordinary ticket like you would with any other show. Benefactors sit around the table and they have two hours to come to a unanimous decision about how to spend the money that they collectively donated; occasionally there might be a rollover from a show previously, so there might be more money on the table. And silent witnesses silently observe and they cannot express their opinions unless they choose to buy in by ringing a bell.
It’s a really interesting show, because the patterns go from people talking very quietly, trying to be very polite, and then people getting really passionate about ideas, as well as silent witnesses buying in and totally shifting the whole conversation. There’s a clock counting down behind you which is quite a pressurised situation, and then there are these hosts who ramp up the theatricality of it and are able to slightly, subtly manipulate it as and where they see fit. And then at the end we give everybody a glass of wine and allow some of the silent witnesses to voice their opinions for the first time.
One of the things that surprises me the most is that the same things come up every single time: giving it to the homeless guy on the street, splitting it, random acts of kindness, giving it to charity. Charity’s been really dominant in Edinburgh. And also how much the context where we’re doing it comes up. Doing it at Battersea [Arts Centre] just after the fire, the fire came up in every show; here the Fringe, emerging artists and people who’ve made a loss on their shows come up. How much people are aware of where they’re coming to the show is quite interesting.
Often the best experience of the show is being a silent witness and then buying in and being able to see it from both sides. Having that kind of perspective, you see those characters emerge within the benefactors: the villain or the person who’s going to save the day. I think it’s really fascinating. Even when it’s quite a monotonous conversation, or in the middle where it drops a little bit, it’s still fascinating. An audience member once said it’s like watching Shakespeare because it dips and twists, and I think they’re really right. In most of the shows you get that. So you have two very different experiences. And benefactors can gong out and become a silent witness. You can really have quite a fluid experience of switching in and out.
One of the things we’ve noticed about the show, especially in this Showcase, is how much it shifts when people from different cultures buy in and how different they are to the British people in the show in the way that they approach the decision making process, which has been really interesting. We’re going to work really hard to bring an interpreter in, so we’ll have an interpreter dressed as a host like us so that we can do it in people’s first language as much as possible. That feels really important, for everyone to be able to say exactly what they think.
We were talking earlier about taking it to Portugal and their relationship to money, and the euro and the whole journey that that’s gone on. I think it will be a really interesting journey touring The Money and it will shape the show a lot in terms of how flexible we can be about it and what decision making spaces there are in other places and what that means to them. I’m not sure we think that much about where our council meets and I wonder how different that would be in smaller communities. We’re still really keen to not do it in theatres as much as possible and keep embedding it into the community so that they can be sitting there in a place where decisions get made about them all the time, which feels really important.
We’ve had an amazing time at the Showcase. It’s been a brilliant opportunity for us in terms of this show, but also other work that we do that’s maybe more installation work, and just having that opportunity to have an international profile within the festival and have that stamp of recognition of being part of the Showcase. Our relationship with the British Council is really developing and they have been so supportive and so brilliant at brokering relationships. We’re going home very happy.