£¥€$ (LIES)

by Ontroerend Goed
Singapore International Festival of Arts 2023
SOTA Studio Theatre, Singapore

The Singapore International Festival of Arts 2023 experience kicks off with £¥€$ (LIES), a show that feels like a life-sized board game. Helmed by Belgian collective Ontroerend Goed which has carved out a niche in participatory performance, audience members are invited into what appears to be a casino set up for a game of blackjack. Our croupier-host informs us that our table is a country and each individual is a bank within that country. The goal? Make as much money as you can. 

We start with an allotted amount of capital and roll dice to multiply our holdings. Some people win, others lose. More complicated concepts are gradually introduced: fractional reserve banking to expand liquidity, bonds, shorting, the impact of credit ratings. The game becomes more strategic as we pay attention to what's happening both within our country and outside. When a financial crisis finally breaks out, who should we sacrifice? 

By putting us into the driving seat of the action, £¥€$ (LIES) offers a thrilling insight into the ruthless world of international finance, the credit crisis and how the ruling classes can effectively control the fate of others seemingly by chance. A few ill-conceived steps and everything goes belly up. Piles of capital become worthless. Trust, we are told more than once, is what we need to rebuild and heal. 

Kudos to the ensemble for creating a slick and seamless experience that keeps the audience engaged for a full two hours complete with vigorous number-crunching, ominous music and monologues that leave one guessing what's going to happen next. If the purpose of theatre is to make one think, this show most definitely does its job. And manages to get across a spectrum of finance concepts in a pretty nifty way.

The Crystalwords score: 3/5


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