“The Power Of Yes” by David Hare

at the Lyttelton Theatre, Sunday 18th April 2010

It all started with Margaret Thatcher. The market was created and the trading of numbers and words began. Ever since, through facades of prosperity and optimism, capitalism has failed to offer fairness whilst time and time again exposing its own flaws. Hare in his superb new play allows us to see that the world cannot go on worshipping this dog-eat-dog mindset, especially in the light of global recession.

The first thing we are told in David Hare’s The Power of Yes is that “This is not a play. It is a story.” It is a story of how the banks collapsed and how Capitalism finally began to eat its own greedy self. A verbatim play, it examines the short-sightedness of the so-called ‘free-market’ and the power than bankers have over political institutions. As the play’s subtitle suggests, the play is about Hare’s own mission “to understand the financial crisis.”

The clearest message which Hare conveys is that talk of finance and credit is complete and utter bollocks. No one understands a word of what they are saying and attempts to explain these complicated concepts towards the beginning of the play only serve to make the executives look even more stupid than they already did. Figures and brand names flash up on the back screens, just as meaningless as the ideas they try to define.

It is these thoughts which eventually lead to the “death of an idea” towards the end of the play. But unlike characters in other plays, we feel no sympathy for the bankers here. It is they who have caused the problems and they who genuinely believe they are “masters of the universe”, deserving every pound hundreds of thousands they earn every year. Hare forces us to look not just at the roots of these problems but the reasons why they are allowed to persist. Are we able to “legislate greed”, or is it just human nature?

The acting in this production is as slick as the thieves they portray. A true ensemble cast present the dilemma clearly and succinctly, and are backed by beautifully evocative and doom-laden music. Particularly inventive is Paule Constable’s lighting design, shining bright lights on actors and audience alike, asking us to inquire whether or not we are really any better ourselves. Hare understands, however, that true human nature is to fight for the good of the species and that most would not advocate this savage capitalism if they had a choice. After all, “those who end up paying the price are never the ones who get the benefits”.

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