Serious Money

Wed 15th – Sat 18th February 2012

reviews

Sorcha Kurien-Walsh

at 00:23 on 16th Feb 2012

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I missed experiencing the 1980s by one year but- such is the media’s appetite for nostalgia- I feel I know it already . Ashes to Ashes, Glory Days, The Iron Lady and the recent BBC adaption of Martin Amis’ Money all detail those well-known 80s tropes such as cocaine, perms, greed and power suits with a mixture of kitsch nostalgia (those clothes! That hair!) and reproach (the conspicuous consumption!). Caryl Churchill’s Serious Money is a satirical look at the lives of a group of bankers during the late ’80s, following both investigations into the untimely death of trader Jake Todd and a tense corporate takeover. It is worth noting that Serious Money was written in 1987; although the costumes and music of this production are amusingly retro, it has an appeal beyond nostalgia or retrospective condemnation; despite the old-fashioned costumes, the characters are chillingly familiar- especially in Oxford, where it feels like everybody is gunning for a financial internship this summer. At the same time, although its characters are in their own words “vile” and “amoral”, this production by The Oxford School of Drama is nevertheless engaging and moving.

This is mostly due to the brilliance of the script; written in rhyming couplets, it gives the play a sense of momentum, even when the financial information is at its driest. Unfortunately, this sense of energy and brio needs to be matched by the cast who (perhaps because of opening night nerves) occasionally seemed a little subdued. All the same, the central performances are to be commended. Hary Feltham, as the banker Zackerman, is confident and winning in a very difficult role- though perhaps a little one-note; his American accent-whilst admirably maintained throughout- limits his vocal expression. Alexandra Dowling’s Scilla Todd is impressively forceful and convincing given her youthful appearance, whilst Christopher Jamieson is both menacing and comical as the villainous Billy Corman. Although these three do the play’s heavy lifting, the company are superb-especially in the secondary comic roles. I defy anyone not to be carried away by their enthusiasm by the final musical number. Serious Money is clearly a difficult play to stage, but the students of the TOSOD have done sterling work. They deserve every success in their future careers.

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