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The Power Of Yes

Published 7 October 2009

A group of identical suits fills the vast stage of the Lyttelton theatre as they debate what exactly the recession was. A comedy perhaps? A Greek tragedy? Or was it simply a farce?

As the author of the piece moves between them, taking down notes on his Moleskine notebook, his journey to find out who the villain of the piece is, and whether it is one of these bankers surrounding him, begins.

The Power Of Yes is the story of David Hare’s attempt to understand the recent financial crisis from its very beginnings and the people behind the collapse. Was it greed or fear that began the disaster or simply a massive lapse in judgment?

More an interactive lecture than a play, Hare talks to key figures in the financial world who take him from the golden days of trading and fat bonuses to the public flogging of the RBS directors, as one by one banks folded and people were seen queuing for hours at Northern Rock to withdraw their savings.

Masa Serdarevic (Jemima Rooper), a 23-year-old banker and future Financial Times journalist, is Hare’s main source, as she entertainingly and simply explains the history of the collapse, noting, with a level of humour, that almost everyone involved was a Harvard or London School of Economics graduate, or worked for the FT; a relatively small group of people that controlled the world’s economy, heading for disaster at full steam, like the Titanic ignoring the vast lump of ice in front of it.

With Anthony Calf taking on the role of Hare, his journey takes him from Nobel Prize winners to tax evasion, the FSA – which describes and defends itself as being friendly neighbourhood police, not the CID – to hedge fund bankers.

Beautifully produced, the facts and often-complex theories are illustrated with a screen that portrays blackboards with chalked equations, images of well known politicians, Andy Warhol faces, monopoly houses and more often than not the all important stock market.

Whilst this is not a play that you can sit back and simply enjoy without applying a caffeine-fuelled level of concentration, Hare’s questions – which range from the naive to the furious – are ones that we have all wanted to ask. The Power Of Yes is an excellent education into the delusions and ridiculous greed that got us into this mess in the first place.

CM

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