Play Dough @ The Albany Review

The financial crash of 2007 has had a knock on effect on how we live today. But what was the financial crash and how has it impacted our lives? More importantly, how do you possibly condense the explanations to these questions into a palatable narrative for pre-teens to understand?

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Play Dough takes on this very brave task of educating our future generation of children in the very complex mind field of money. This task is to be applauded, as the concept of money has a very rich (excuse the pun) history. Money and its history are briefly explored, however presents another strand which would make for interesting viewing in a future production.

The afternoon is wrapped up in the gloss and glamour of a game show, bright lights and smiling faces become the veneer barracading the hurt and confusion experienced by the loss of money. The striking game show aesthetic gravitates the audience towards it, exuberant fluorescent lighting and a pile of £1 coins generate excitement as to what the hour will entail. The game show format introduces the concept of gambling, drawing us into a world where our winnings could be the difference between living on the bread line, or amassing millions. This automatically from a theatrical stand point encourages high stakes, however as an audience member I never truly feel at risk of losing the wealth amassed on stage.

From the moment the audience enter the space, we are either directed to the left, which means we are either on the green team, or the right, which signifies the blue team. Rivalry is key throughout the afternoon, with audience participation needing the cheers of fellow audience members to pick up the atmosphere. This idea is hit and miss. It’s brilliant when it works, and when it does, that sense of audience feedback is great, however when the audience fall silent, it detracts from the atmosphere of what a gameshow should be.

The game show format acts as an immediate gateway to the world of finance to a 7yr to 12yr age range. This is an accessible medium for children of that age to witness how quickly money can either be won or lost. The inclusion of real £1 coins, (£10,000 worth to be exact) breaks down the ambiguous quantity to something that they can actually hold, but sadly becomes just a visual, a two dimensional entity. With each game show round, there is the opportunity for the member of the crowd to win buckets of money, with the team amassing the most coins winning. With each team building up their collection of coins, I’m left wondering what it symbolises. Do the money piles symbolise money we work for, yet inevitably have to contribute towards tax? This again could be a strand that could be looked at further.

Play Dough ties the game show format with a storyline involving our jubilant hosts, Queenie and TooMuch. Having these two protagonists depict their hardships in regards to the financial crash makes the afternoon more personable. The interweaving of the gameshow and the drama playing out at first is jarring. It takes time for the convention to settle, and when it does it leaves you wanting to know what will happen next.

My younger brother aged 9, is the true critic of the afternoon, and I ask his opinion on the show. He enjoys the gameshow aspect of the piece, however when I ask him what he has learned from the show he refers to ‘Bitcoin’, a new ground in currency we are yet to explore. It’s great he has picked out an element perhaps he’d like to learn more about, but this is another issue with the play. It overloads the audience with far too much information, rather than attempting to keep it palatable. 3/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Play Dough was shown at the Albany from Tuesday 16th until Wednesday 17th February. For more information on the production, visit here…

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