(Michael Billington's reveiw appeared in the Guardian, October 7.)
The Power of Yes
"This isn't a play. It's a story." So says the on-stage Author at the start of David Hare's The Power of Yes. And the fascinating story it tells, in less than two hours, is of Hare's own attempt to understand the financial crisis.
Drawing on Hare's copious interviews with key players, some of whom, such as the LSE's Howard Davies, were present on the first night, it proves yet again that theatre has the capacity to instruct delightfully, and to make sense of the world.
The presence of Hare in the shape of a faintly perplexed, note-taking Anthony Calf is crucial to the story. At first we see him bombarded with advice as to how he should go about his business. He is variously told to make Alan Greenspan or Fred Goodwin the villain, to avoid simply saying that bankers are evil, and to see the unfolding events as a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy.
Spurning all this, Hare simply goes about doggedly asking questions. Sometimes he adopts a faux-naif persona ("Ah yes, 'sub prime', I've heard of that"). But one is reminded, even more directly than in Stuff Happens and The Permanent Way, that Hare has the prime instinct of a first-rate journalist: an unending curiosity.
And what does he learn? Firstly that the current crisis has complex origins. He goes back to the work of a Nobel prize-winning economist, Myron Scholes, who in 1973 came up with an algebraic formula for eliminating risk. Hare then steers us through the birth of the Financial Services Authority, the fatal belief in light regulation, the growth of the British financial sector to the point where it accounted for 9% of the economy, and the American sub-prime crisis in which million-dollar mortgages were dished out to people with no income and no assets.
See the trailer for 'The Power of Yes' (no sound):
Visit the National Theatre Web site: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/
(David Hare's work is included in Duo!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)
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