The Money at London County Hall
The Money isn’t your typical trip to the theatre, in fact many would struggle to call it theatre at all. The premise is that you either watch the action unfold as a silent witness or you are a player. The players are presented with a pot of money and hour to decide how to spend it. The catch is that the players must be unanimous in their decision, they cannot split the pot and they are not allowed to give it to charity. If they fail to agree the money rolls over to the next game. At any point throughout the hour the silent witnesses can choose to buy their way in and become a player by adding a minimum of £20 to the pot.
The hour starts off slowly and politely with a round of introductions amongst the players and some vague suggestions thrown into the ring. At the beginning of the hour I did worry that I was going to be clock watching whilst they deliberated between a range of ideas such as going out for dinner together or giving it to the first homeless person they saw as they left. It however turned out that my concerns were ill founded.
We got the information that one of the players had attended 4 times to try and win the money to pay for his carpet and a member of the audience brought her way in to ask why he hadn’t put the ticket money towards the carpet instead. The idea was politely glossed over by the players as more audience members began to buy their way in, many to tell them the other players to stop prevaricating and to get on with it including a very eloquent under 18’s footballer who often seemed to vocalise what I was thinking.
Things however began to get really interesting when a young woman named Freya brought her way in. She told the room how her mum had struggled with work during the pandemic due to being diagnosed with diabetes and as such she was struggling to afford to pay for travel across London to get to her performing arts school each day for her final term. She nervously explained that the cost of travel was the only thing standing in the way of her finishing her course and this stage of her education. She was faced with a barrage of questions, what did she want to do after her course finished, what other drama schools had she auditioned for, what style of theatre did she like, what was her route to school, how long did her commute take and to her credit she handled them all brilliantly.
It got to the stage where there was less than 10 minutes left on the clock that all the players looked like they would agree and they began to pass round the sheet of paper they all had to sign to confirm this, Freya was even congratulated but then 2 more silent witnesses brought their way in. One quickly confirmed that they were supportive of the idea and simply wanted to add to the pot for Freya and you could hear an audible sign of relief from the (not so) silent witnesses. However the second new player confirmed that she disagreed with it as she doubted the legitimacy of Freya’s claims. She explained that she was a drama teacher and that she thought that parts of the story did not ring true, in particular about upcoming auditions. A the clock was ticking Freya asked her friend to pass her phone to her which had on it emails confirming the details of these auditions. Much to everyone’s relief this satisfied the newest player and she agreed to sign along with everyone else. It was a happy ending when it was confirmed that Freya would get over £400 to help with travel and with her visibly shaking with what seemed like a mixture of shock and gratitude most in the room seemed pleased with the outcome.
As a social experiment it was very interesting. It was clear that to win the money you needed a great hook and to have some charisma about you, a back story was a plus as it helped give the request credibility. In the show I watched there was a lot of scepticism ranging from how poor the first homeless person on the street may really be, to if the winner really was who she says she was. It was also interesting how easily players were able to dismiss others pleas to their faces whilst suggesting giving the money to an unknown person.
The brilliant thing is every show is different, although this means that there is a risk that there are no twists and turns during the evening. Since attending I have become strangely fascinated with scrolling through their twitter feed to try and find out what happened at other performances and I wouldn’t be surprised if I am not alone in that admission. Of course the final outcome doesn’t do justice to the tense journey each show undoubtedly goes on to arrive there.
The Money is an interesting concept, part social experiment, part theatre which was as frustrating to watch as it was fascinating.
The Money is running until 18th July. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.