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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Power of Yes


The bankers arenít the villains just the hamsters on the wheel.— Howard Davies, First Chair of the Financial Services Authority
The Power of Yes
Jemima Rooper as Masa Serdarevic and Anthony Calf as the Author
(Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
When Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, the National Theatre asked David Hare to write a play about the global financial crisis. His response, The Power of Yes, is a documentary collection of people played by actors interviewed by the author played by Anthony Calf and dressed like Hare.

The Power of Yes is informative and didactic but there is no drama other than the events themselves and there is really no reason why these facts have to be presented by actors rather than in the form of a long newspaper article, a book or a television documentary. If you go to the theatre looking for a play with characters and staging you will be disappointed. It is particularly unfortunate for Hare that, on a similar subject, Lucy Prebbleís play Enronwith its inventive staging is showing in London contemporaneously with the dismal Power of Yes. It also begs the question, "Do we want economics explained to us by a playwright rather than by a financial journalist like the BBCís Robert Peston?"

Jemina Rooper is enlisted to play Masa Serdarevic, an Oxford graduate who was photographed leaving Lehman Brothers in Canary Wharf last year with her cardboard box of office possessions. She now works for The Financial Times. She introducers many of the other bankers and financiers who come onstage to say their bit. The detail that Hare got wrong and I know because I was in Canary Wharf that day, was that they didnít come in to work in their suits, but were defiantly wearing trainers and jeans and sports kit, the way city workers tell you they are on their time and not the firmís. Serdarevicís role is to guide the playwright through the minefields of subprime lending and hedge funds. As we observed in the plays about Afghanistan at The Tricycle, Rooperís Easter European accent is not yet one of her strengths.

Malcolm Sinclair plays the American academic Myron Scholes who we are told is "the intellectual father of the credit default swap". No one plays Alan Greenspan, instead three screens project video footage of his mouth, the view restricted from the bottom of his glasses to his chin. Why Greenspan has to be almost disembodied is because, with his devotion to the anti-Communist Ayn Rand, he is the nearest Hareís play gets to a villain.

The Power of Yes is well researched but there it stops. Looking at the oeuvre of Hareís work I can see there have been some plays light on plot. The Power of Yes is full of the stuff of plot but devoid of theatre.

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The Power of Yes
Written by David Hare
Directed by Angus Jackson

With: Julien Ball, Ian Bartholomew, Anthony Calf, Richard Cordery, Jonathan Coy, Mark Elstob, Paul Freeman, Ian Gelder, John Hollingworth, Bruce Myers, Claire Price, Jeff Rawle, Christian Roe, Jemima Rooper, Malcolm Sinclair, Peter Sullivan, Nicolas Tennant, Alan Vicary, Simon Williams, Lizzie Winkler
Design: Bob Crowley
Lighting: Paule Constable
Music : Stephen Warbeck
Sound: John Leonard
Video Design: John Driscoll with Gemma Carrington
Running time: One hour 45 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Booking to 10th January 2009
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th October 2009 performance at the Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 (Rail/Tube: Waterloo)

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