Review: Serious Money, Radio 3

“We will make a profit at the right time in the right place, with an smile on our very acceptable face”‘

Just a quickie for this Caryl Churchill adaptation. This most linguistically adept of playwrights is a natural fit for the radio, the focus able to settle on the unique way in which she is able to utilise the written word and in Serious Money, it is her use of rhyming couplets that gains real prominence in this medium. But it is her subject matter that really stands out and makes one wonder why a revival hasn’t been mounted recently. Set just after the Big Bang of 1986, Churchill explores the impact of deregulation on the financial markets, how it gave rise to a culture of dodgy high-stakes insider trading and in this case, set the scene for some particularly rapacious Third World exploitation.

Emma Harding’s adaptation gives brilliant life to this jargon-filled, profanity-fuelled world and whilst it may initially seem like a dizzying whirl of barely definable characters, a method to the madness becomes clear, one’s ear becomes accustomed to the poetic, yet shallow, language they speak, their mouths full of empty promises and worthless proclamations as they pursue the greedy mantra of the 1980s. There’s a murder too, but that hardly seems a major point in the end, we don’t even find out who did it but it matters not a jot.

A particularly good cast accompanies this production – Hattie Morahan and Bertie Carvel play a brother and sister who both work the stock markets as best they can to their own advantage; Tobias Menzies’ Zak Zackerman is an aural pleasure and David Horovitch is excellent as one of the more unscrupulous dealers, possessed of an insidious superiority for his old school tactics. Music is used well to vary the tone, Colin Sell’s gift for light-hearted song well suited to the purpose, and I’d recommend giving this a listen if you can before the weekend is over. 

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