Money, 42-44 Bermondsey Street, London
Thursday 08 October 2009
Shunt know all about spectacle. For this, their first company show since 2006's creepy Rear Window homage Amato Saltone, they have created a theatrical space of breathtaking ambition and invention. Having moved from their usual home in the spooky vaults underneath London Bridge station, the experimental theatre collective are currently holed up in an abandoned cigar warehouse on nearby Bermondsey Street.
Inside, they have built a vast, three-storey contraption, its exterior of zigzagging metal staircases, pipes and rivets guarded by heavies wearing security masks and wielding fistfuls of balloons.
Lights flicker, bells clang and steam rises. A femme fatale in a fur coat and red stilettos reclines on the steps, watching lazily as a red-faced man in a suit is ejected on the bottom floor, hugging a box of desktop possessions to his chest.
The audience is eventually ushered into the clanking Tardis where a stunning coup de théâtre signals the start of the show proper. Rarely has finding a seat been quite so exciting. Plunged into darkness we seem to be at the heart of a massive, noisily malfunctioning machine. As the lights come up, nervy employees in mustard berets call out inexplicable numbers and names, a strange man in white stockings wheels himself across the floor, and a sinister beaked creature skitters about on the Perspex ceiling above our heads.
From these elliptical scraps, we glean that we're in the world of finance, albeit as seen through skewed and surreal eyes. Money is loosely inspired by Emile Zola's 1891 novel L'Argent, itself inspired by the collapse of the French bank Union Générale. Shunted mercilessly between past echoes and present worries, audience members are cast as nervous would-be borrowers in a traditional bank, as successful investors (toasted with glasses of perfectly chilled champagne), and as MPs in the debating chamber weakly trying to regulate the mess. ("Did we do anything wrong? No!")
Led around the machine, new perspectives and surprises continually open up: we eavesdrop on slick financiers, steaming themselves in a personal sauna beneath our feet and spy on the private celebrations of greedy money-makers. With frustratingly little character or narrative to invest in, Money is overly opaque and becomes rather confusing by the end but it's a thrilling journey worth taking nonetheless.
To 22 December (www.shuntmoney.co.uk)
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