THEATRE / Between the Lines: The actor and director Burt Caesar on Serious Money

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'There's ugly-greedy and sexy-greedy, you dope / At the moment, you're ugly, which is no hope / If you stay ugly, God knows what your fate is] / But sexy-greedy is the late Eighties.'

From Serious Money by Caryl Churchill

THE MAIN pitfall for any topical play is to be too much in thrall to the issues that make it topical. Another trap is to try and encapsulate a general message from events subject to tidal patterns. One of Caryl Churchill's deft touches in Serious Money was to make her 'city comedy' a close-up portrait of events and personalities connected to the square mile in autumn and winter 1986-87. The play was subsequently upbraided in some quarters for making a bunch of fairly unsavoury types appear sexy and glamorous. But as it's turned out, that incandescence seems to have been self-destroying. 'Burn-out', formerly the summation of a millionaire trader's life, is now more aptly applied to a financial market living, it appears, in daily fear of ignominy and ruin. How remote from the raucous days of Big Bang] In avoiding being didactic, Churchill achieved a rare prescience. Her writing captured the accelerated logic of deregulated dealing driven by state-of-the-art technology, and seemed to anticipate the outcome. Now we are watching that crisis happen in what feels like slow-motion, with no author to guide the plot.

Burt Caesar's production of 'Faith Over Reason' is at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, Sloane Sq, London SW1 until 7 Nov (071-730 1745). His performance of 'The Schooner Flight' by Derek Walcott is on Radio 4, 15 Nov, 10.15pm.

(Photograph omitted)