David Hare is an angry playwright, and rightly so.
The Power of Yes is his attempt to make sense of the financial crisis, and rather than a conventional piece, we see the “author” (Anthony Calf) attempt to make sense of everything by conducting a series of interviews with relevant people. Many of them are named, but others are anonymous. It’s fun watching recognisable characters being dramatised – most famously George Soros (Bruce Myers).
Most usefully to our guiding author is Masa Serdarevic (Jemima Roper), now an FT journalist but previously at Lehman Brothers. And of course, as she guides Hare through proceedings, she helps us along too.
The nature of the piece means that it’s largely expository and there’s little room for characterisation. That’s even more the case since there are dozens of characters here who come in and out so often, we have to literally be introduced and then reintroduced to them.
But this simply isn’t a straightforward story. Hare’s doing his best to get to the bottom of it, and to a large extent he does. I’d guess that the chap in the row in front of me works or worked at one of the US banks in question because he was nodding furiously at one point, and roared with laughter at the revelation that Lehman Brothers workers weren’t carrying their cleared desks in boxes as they left after the company had gone under. Instead it turned out that the cafeteria worked on a credit system, and they were clearing out their credit in confectionery.
The staging was minimalist but made clever use of screens and projections. Even a blackboard was wheeled out on a few occasions: we really were back in school at times.
Overall, I thought that this was a terrific and incredibly timely piece. Although the BBC recently dramatised The Last Days of the Lehman Brothers, this was somehow more accessible, but not simplified for the hard of thinking. Hare persuasively argues anyway that managing a hospital is actually a lot harder than some of the jobs that these bankers were – and are – doing.
I’ve got to say that I’m not sure that the rest of the audience quite shared my enjoyment of this piece. Whether or not it was because most of them will have probably bought these tickets a long time before they found out what exactly they were letting themselves in for, I don’t know. Perhaps they were restless at having to sit through two hours without an interval. I think that was a correct decision since you really didn’t want to have to break up the story.
Anyway, ignore them and either see this, or read the script which Faber already has on sale. Although I didn’t pick up a copy after the performance, such is the level of information imparted by the script, it may well be worth reading.
And I hope that as some point this gets an outing on TV or gets a DVD release. It’s the sort of thing that will benefit from re-watching.