Theatre vs. the Recession
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Theatre vs. the Recession

Photo courtesy of the production.

It was only a matter of time before someone did a clown show about the financial crisis. We always had the feeling the recession was actually the set-up for a really good joke, and SPENT, the new play created through the joint efforts of TheatreRUN, Why Not Theatre, and Theatre Smith-Gilmour, promises to deliver the punchline. It sounds like a good idea: the show is created and performed by Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza, two of our favourite young theatre artists, with the assistance of Michele Smith and Dean Gilmour, two accomplished old hands at physical theatre. Yet somehow, even though this is a subject we would all surely love to be able to laugh about, SPENT doesn’t quite give us the giggles we were looking for.
The plot is loosely structured around a couple of Bay Street bankers who wake up one day, hear about the financial collapse, and decide to jump off an office tower. However, the style is digressive and the dialogue sparse, so SPENT is less about their story and more about the opportunities it provides for Jain and Paolozza to showcase their perfomative dexterity mixed with Smith and Gilmour’s visual panache. And that’s really too bad. Because, while all of the above-mentioned aspects of the show are really top-notch, the lack of a story to follow, or much original thought about the recession, makes the evening add up to a bit less than the sum of its parts. The sequences involving a fast-paced BBC News piece on the bankers is impressive, but a bit cliché; we’ve seen the talking heads parody before. And the performers are able to create beautiful images using only their bodies and very basic costumes, ranging from the windy tip-top of a city skyscraper, to a booming, humongous, and hellishly angry Beelzebub, to a freight train getaway right out of an old Chaplin movie. But it often seems like the company is so caught up in making beautiful images, they completely ignore pacing, and some sequences are tediously long.
Without an engaging and present story, all we’re left with is a series of vignettes and whatever message they might be trying to leave us with about the global financial situation. Which is what, exactly? Greed is bad? Money is problematic? It’s a wonderful opportunity for some scathing satire, but the insights are banal at best, offensively glib at worst. The recession has hurt a lot of people in a lot of unfunny ways, and SPENT just doesn’t go far enough to show us how to laugh at it.
SPENT runs until October 25 at the Factory Theatre Studio.