Writer: Isla van Tricht
Director: Guy Woolf
Big corporations using big donations to clean their image is a hot topic in the arts and charity sectors. Whether struggling organisations should accept funds from companies accused of “green-washing” is the subject of Isla van Tricht’s smart new play Money streamed on Zoom by represent and Southwark Playhouse which puts decisive power in the hands of the audience.
The Nyoni Youth and Community Project Board have gathered for their latest Trustees meeting including Angela the CEO and founder, Kaia a sustainable brand owner, Glenn a city worker and Chair, IT expert Avery and Nyoni’s Community Support officer Flo. When a £1 million donation from Andres Corps is announced, Angela assumes the Board will be grateful, but dissent and recrimination follow as the members debate the ethics of accepting the money.
Running for just about 75-minutes, van Tricht has set the audience a fascinating and pertinent dilemma – turn a blind eye to the dodgy provenance of this large sum and use it to help a lot of people who need it, or maintain an ethical stance even if it sinks the company entirely? Money is framed as a meeting of five Trustees with very different opinions, putting forward arguments staged like an all too recognisable work meeting that makes us wonder if any of us are really “clean”?
Anyone who has seen the footage of the Handforth Parish Council meeting and the brief celebrity of Jackie Weaver will recognise and enjoy the backbiting, self-importance and summary ejection of people from this eventful meeting. The immersive nature of this show, directed by Guy Woolf, is cleverly staged, assigning the audience roles as new Trustees and allowing us to listen in on this conversation. On two occasions, you can choose to join side conversations in breakout rooms with the freedom to move between them, before casting a vote in the show’s final moments.
The nature of the debate does mean a lot of time is spent reading out facts about climate change and questionable supply chains which sometimes feels a little stilted but there are various side stories and undercurrents in van Tricht’s show that slowly reveal the dynamics between the Board Members and the context in which the grand donation was solicited. Some of these extend a little too long but Money does invest in character development, moving it beyond the gimmicks of Zoom.
As Angela, Sarel Madziya is particularly interesting, a character who is almost evangelical about accepting the funds even at the cost of a colleague’s integrity. Loussin-Torah Pilikian’s Flo becomes increasingly disconcerted by the discussions and her part in them, as does Nemide May Basri as Kaia who is equally troubled by the meeting’s direction. Later in the show, Aaron Douglas gets to add some valuable nuance to slick Chairman Glenn while Adam Rachid Laazar does what he can with the underdeveloped role of Avery.
The script needs a little honing, but it is easy to see how Money would work as a stage as well as a digital production. While the vote outcomes are revealing, anyone who recognises these knotty debates from their own workplaces will be impressed by credibility of the scenario that van Tricht and Woolf have created while increasing the tension with personal dramas and development as the experience unfolds.
Runs here until 15 May 2021