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Above left: Marshall Napier, Christopher Stollery, Rhys Muldoon.

Above right: Amber McMahon, Tony Llewellyn, David Witney.

Pictures: Heidrun Lohr.

POSTED: 03 MAY 2010

The Power of Yes, by David Hare

Company B | Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney | Until 30 May

On face value, a play about the how the Global Financial Crisis (aka GFC) came about sounds about as interesting as being forced to watch your cousin’s friend’s two-hour home movie of their model railway system.

Through the eyes of playwright David Hare, however, the potentially dry and impenetrably convoluted subject of the financial system becomes funny, illuminating and at times appalling.

Frenetically paced, The Power of Yes is a crash-course in economics and a scary peek into the minds and motivation of the power-brokers behind the obscene amounts of money (and theoretical money) recklessly bandied about in the world of finance, and completes Company B’s Hare trilogy of those in influence at the turn of the millennium.

The fluorescent lighting of an anonymous office washes out the set. Brilliantly coloured deflated balloons carpet the ground as if to signify the day after the night before.

Hare places ‘himself’ (The Author, perfectly realised by Brian Lipson) at the centre of the action as various high-fliers in the finance world stride on and off stage, sit in the audience, and piece together just how this enormous debacle could occur. Lipson conveys bemusement, frustration and disbelief as the various suited bigwigs attempt to explain or deflect blame. His astonishment at the hubris and folly of these characters is palpable.

As Director Sam Strong notes: “What The Power of Yes makes clear is that the GFC was as much about simple ambition, greed and the desire to compete as it was about complex collateralised debt obligations.”

I’m not afraid to admit that much of the detail of what was said went right over my head, but the essential meaning and impact was never lost. Rather like watching Shakespeare, the words are recognisably English, but just different enough in structure and common usage to make it a challenge to follow at times.

Once I relaxed and stopped trying to understand every facet of credit risk, I was more able to appreciate the innovative structure of Hare’s work and brilliant performances of this excellent cast.

The title for The Power of Yes comes from a TV advertisement for a no longer operational mortgage lender in the US, Washington Mutual. I went to YouTube to watch it. In the final frame, a relentlessly happy man who has had all sorts of nasty things happen to him chuckles as a bowling ball hits him in the nuts and says, “You got me!”

They got him all right.

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