Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Power of Yes

To The National to see David Hare's fascinating new piece The Power of Yes subtitled - A playwright seeks to understand the financial crisis. It's a another development in verbatim theatre with Hare himself (played by Anthony Calf) never leaving the stage. From the wings come wave after wave of bankers, politicians and financial experts all with a point of view and a story to tell. Each interview is punctuated with exchanges between Hares and Masa, a Bosnian, twenty three year old former refugee appointed by the Theatre to give the writer a crash course in capitalist economics. An everyman meets an angel encounter, part device to help us keep up and part relief from the front foot assertions of the adversarial money men.

On paper, as Hare pre-empitvely suggests in the initial scenes, the material seems too dry and abstract for a good night out but the enjoyment of the evening comes as the author moves from anger at the reckless greed of the financial sector to, if not sympathy, then some understanding of the importance of self -belief in any profession be it as a playwright or a stock broker and a culpable realisation that although we shouldn't live on faith and optimism alone -many of us try.

On the way are some wonderful lines and insights. John Cruddas explaining that Tony Blair's great strength and weakness is his lack of belief in history borne from a knowledge that only the moment matters. A young financier angry that Hare's generation had had it so good and passed on so little and a Financial Times journalist explaining that bankers believe that money equals intelligence - making them immune to intellectual rigour.

Behind the investigation lies the recurring theme of accountability, touched on in Hare's previous work The Permanent Way and Stuff Happens. A sense that devolved structures and privatised agencies not only lead to complication and confusion, but ultimately bring self- destruction. As one Industrialist pertinently points out If you breakdown responsibility into a thousand pieces it's human nature to believe that the gaps are being created by other people.

The question that remains hanging over the final scene, as Hare sits down to discuss the limits of the free market over dinner with an unruffled George Soros, the lights of Manhattan twinkling beyond sound proofed glass, is where was the spine that might have held the body upright? And have we, now that the worst has happened, got the courage to reassess regulation and insist it's there to give the civilisation shape, borders and a compass for the future?

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