Review: The Money (County Hall, London)
Immersive piece fails to excite
One positive to draw out of Kaleider's The Money is that this is at the very least a unique concept. It is an interactive piece that blurs the lines between performance and reality in a way that is intriguing, if not always captivating.
Theatregoers are split into two camps: players and silent witnesses. During the opening, a pile of cash (about £270 this evening) is poured onto the stage and the players debate and decide among themselves how it is to be spent. There are a few caveats, read out at the beginning - the final decision must be unanimously agreed upon inside 60 minutes and also be within the law. Predictably, silent witnesses must stay silent but are able to join the debate by walking down to the stage and ringing a bell. It does cost £20 to enter the game in this way, so the majority of the audience simply observe.
The problem with this arrangement is that the entertainment factor is completely dependent on who makes up the vocal player group. There is no doubt that in the right performance conversation could flow and produce some exciting and organic moments, but equally if the group's chemistry is off this could easily not be the case. Sadly this evening conversation revolved around the same tedious topics - watching a dozen strangers discuss the minutiae of how to define the word ‘charity' is not the most exhilarating viewing. Ultimately the question has to be asked whether watching immersive theatre is as interesting as participating in it. The answer is probably not.
On a positive note, it must be said that the venue itself is visually stunning. It is a wonderful experience just to sit in London's County Hall, with huge vaulted ceilings and marble columns surrounding the audience. There are certainly worse places you could choose to spend an evening.
But even the space has drawbacks, as the acoustics often leave a bit to be desired. Given the size of the room, echo is a problem when more than one person is speaking, which is a common occurrence. Keeping up with conversation is therefore a challenge, not helped by the fact all players are wearing masks, something the production can obviously do nothing about.
This is a brave concept (from Seth Honnor, who also directs) that certainly has potential. But sadly by the end, The Money is more of an exercise in clock watching rather than being fully invested.