What happens if a group of people were given a certain amount of money and had the freedom to spend it as they please? That is the concept that the immersive show The Money is trying to explore. Staged in South Bank’s County Hall, it is a show unlike any other. Developed by the production company Kaleider, it has previously been performed across 5 continents and different London locations.
The audience is divided into players and silent witnesses. The players have the power to decide over the money in the pot. The silent witnesses can view the spectacle and only engage if they buy in as a player. There are only four rules to the game: the money cannot be split up between the players, the money cannot be given to charity, the final decision must abide the law, and should the group not come to a unanimous decision, the money will rollover onto the next performance. The social experiment is supervised two gamemasters who make sure that the silent witnesses stay silent and that the regulations are followed.
And with that, the social experiment kicks off. The rules are read aloud by a player, the money is counted, and the first suggestions are voiced. How can you do good without giving to charity, how is it possible to make a difference in an unusual, unexpected way? Actually, do you want to do good with the money at your disposal – wouldn’t it be more reasonable to spend it on a good time, together with the other players? Alcohol, gambling, and a night out are among the countless suggestions presented during the 60 minutes that are given to the players to come to a unanimous decision.
The Money reveals a lot about what we value as people, and it quickly sheds light on the fact that, since everybody is different and comes from a different background, it is difficult to come to a decision. After all, a group of complete strangers must agree on how to spend a few hundred pounds.
The performance gets more and more interesting as people buy in as players and bring unexplored ideas to the table. As the timer goes below double digits, the pace picks up and hurried, rushed decisions are made. Talks of contingency plans or random acts of kindness go out of the window and I start wondering whether these people perhaps actually prefer having the decision taken away from them and give into their fate.
The Money follows the regular concept of a gameshow – set up as an immersive performance. It manages to explore interesting ideas about our relationship with money. However, the show can hardly be considered a performance as such. It is almost entirely ‘performed’ by members of the public, who (unsurprisingly) fail to deliver the entertainment we look for in theatre. It fails to do what immersive shows can do: excite and expand the boundaries of performance. It feels more like a discussion in the House of Commons with a countdown timer in clear view, than an entertaining spectacle exploring our relationship with money and its value if we can do with it, whatever choose to.
The Money is playing at the London County Hall until 18 July 2021. For more information and tickets visit The Money online.