A Middle Aged White Man’s Burden
Martin Amis wrote a novel about it. Pink Floyd and The Flying Lizards sang songs about it. Now performer Peter Daly has decided to write a play about it. Well, kind of. In “Money,” Daly, an actor, chartered accountant, father, and landlord, attempts to explain the lead up to, and events during, the Irish banking crisis, as well as the country’s problematic road to what passes for a recovery. Like the oft misquoted remark about 'money being the root of all evil,' Daly’s “Money” feels like it's got a bold statement to make, but it’s not quite the revelation you hoped it would be. Like the Irish economy over the past twenty years, “Money” has some incredible highs, but it crashes in too many places, and its recovery isn’t particularly convincing, even if it offers some fascinating insights into the boom and bust that was the Celtic Tiger.
In the world of “Money” wannabe good guys wear white and juggle their accountancy job along with their acting careers. The really bad guys take the money and run, leaving the good guys unsure of their career choices, regretting missed property opportunities, and seeming a little envious of those who made a killing. Looking like a middle-aged yuppie posing in a 1980’s nightclub, flash in a white suit before a deep incision of ice blue neon cut into the wall behind him, Daly talks insightfully about how money works and how we went to boom and then to bust. Indeed, it all gets off to an incredibly promising start. Told with captivating ease, directly, simply, informatively, and hilariously, for the whole of two minutes you almost feel smart as Daly plays with coins and pizzas to elucidate the dynamics of economics. But it soon shifts from an engaging performance to an unnecessarily long TedTalk, or a really unfocused Netflix documentary, that preaches to the informed and converted. Everyone else is left to snatch at what they can understand to try put together a picture from the pieces. Talk about Daly's acting career, his disastrous relationships, and his current financial solvency serve more as short choruses relieving an unnecessarily long 12 inch remix. If superb visuals help keep things engaging, two tall glass jars with balls and fruit prove less successful in making their point.
Director Philip McMahon negotiates the lecturing format extremely well for the most part, understanding Daly’s personality is far more persuasive than his facts, especially when those facts are over extended. Yet in the end, not even Daly’s winning charm and self-deprecating humour can prevent a certain amount of zoning out. Which is a pity, for “Money” offers some really smart observations, and some really smart insights, on how the lunatics took over the asylum, and offers them really well in places. But it tells us far more than the play, or we, needed to know, becoming unfocused as a result, feeling a little too clever for its own good.
As the Good Book says, 'the love of money is the root of all evil.' Daly may not have as much money as he would like, who of us does, but he certainly loves it. Loves how it works, loves its possibilities, loves the accountants knack of making it all balance, if not always loving how privileged, middle-aged, white male bankers abuse it. If Daly talks about the insanity that was the Celtic Tiger, and speaks of dreading the Celtic Phoenix, he still comes across as someone quite pleased with himself for doing quite well out of it all. He may be a father now, and a landlord who doesn’t screw his tenants, but it feels like a weak, self-justifying note to end on. The final image of a young child may speak to Daly’s new found domesticity, but for many it will speak to their own children who may never have an opportunity to own a home of their own, forever dependent on the mercies of a landlord and the self-serving practices of the banks.
“Money” by Peter Daly, runs as part of “Where We Live,” produced by THISISPOPBABY and St. Patrick’s Festival, at The Complex until March 15th