In one of the standout moments from the most recent series of Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe, Philomena Cunk presented a naive yet oddly incisive segment asking "what is money?" It's the same question posed by Unlimited Theatre, who invite children and adults alike to consider the shared fiction of monetary value. Cash only works because we believe in it – so what if we decided not to?
Play Dough is a new version of an earlier piece, Money the Gameshow, reworked for younger audiences. Like its parent show, it too involves a shiny pile of 10,000 real pound coins on stage. The audience is split into two teams, who must then compete for this prize (don't get too excited; the pound coins remain in the theatre at the end). The games we are asked to play, with bubbles and balloons, demonstrate with surprising simplicity the principles of investment, while our team captains intersperse the bursts of interactivity with a story designed to back up these visual demonstrations.
There's definitely something in taking these ideas to children, who still have the imagination to conceive of an alternative to the economic system that the rest of us remain trapped within. But Play Dough lacks the bite of its adult counterpart, while not quite replacing that ferocity with the mischievous energy that it attempts to generate. There's no doubting the fun involved, but it's more likely to leave its young audiences entertained than galvanised.
Play Dough runs at Northern Stage at King's Hall until 23 August
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