Serious Money pounds
dollar greed in 1987 London
The National Theatre School adeptly performs Caryl Churchill’s fast-moving play
By Byron Toben
The graduating class at the National Theatre School recently performed Caryl Churchill’s demanding play, Serious Money at the Monument National.
Ms Churchill is one of my favourite playwrights as she highlights, like G. Bernard Shaw, the clash of ideas. At 81, she has written 51 plays in the past 48 years and may equal Shaw’s 62 if she keeps scribbling away. (He died at 94). Unlike the verbose Shaw, however, she is interview shy and definitely not given to long prefaces. This reticence has led some to compare her to the private J. D. Salinger.
Born in London, she was brought to Montreal in 1948 and graduated Montréal’s Trafalgar School for Girls (class of 1955) before returning to England for university. In 2012, Trafalgar honoured her as a notable alumna. This local background occurred to me as Westmount High’s California born Kamala Harris is now seeking the U.S. presidency.
Serious Money is distinct from her other plays in that much of it is written in rhyming couplets. Shades of Shakespeare! (He, by the way, only wrote 32 plays. Then again, he died young at 52.)
This production, directed by Leslie Wade, adds some song and music to the script (lyrics by Ian Drury, music by Micky Gallagher and Chas Gallagher).
Ms Churchill is one of my favourite playwrights as she highlights, like G. Bernard Shaw, the clash of ideas.
The talented cast of nine portrayed some 46 characters, so the fast-moving pace must have kept the stage manager exceedingly busy. The costumes were largely black, white and gray so, together with the occasional video inserts, there was a bit of feeling of a black and white film.
The whole is a biting satire about the high stakes world of stocks, bonds and trades. The deregulation of 1986 engendered takeovers by large banks. Greed becomes good, as enunciated by Gordon Gecko in the Oliver Stone 1987 film, Wall Street.
In this play, young trader Jake (Jesse LaPointe) is found dead and his sister Scilla (Rochelle Laplante) tries to find out who done it and why as takeovers, bribes and firings swirl about.
The whole adds a Brechtian flavour to the Shavian and Shakespearean influences mentioned above.
The cast drew from across Canada. Mr LaPointe hails from Fredericton, NB and Ms Laplante from Edmonton, AB, as does Kajsa Wood. From other points West were Benjamin Thomas (Saskatoon, SK) and Nathaniel Hanula-James (Vancouver, BC). Three Ontarians were Sophie Dube (Ottawa), Tara Sky (Toronto) and Evelyn Wiebe (Waterloo). Graduating from Quebec was Chloe Giddings (Sherbrooke).
Serious Money ran at the Monument National from February 26 to March 2.
Admission did not require any serious money, as it was “Pay What You Think”.
Images: courtesy of the National Theatre School
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.