£¥€$ (LIES), Edinburgh Festival Fringe

We all know the world is fucked. But who can we blame? In Ontroerend Goed’s £¥€$ (LIES), they blame the global banking system.

More of an interactive gaming event than a performance, LIES splits the audience into six groups of seven. Each group sits around a semi-circular wooden gaming table helmed by a performer-cum-games master. Each table is a nation, and each person is a bank in that nation. To grow our nations’ economies, we must grow out banks. 

To do that, we invest, take a risk, and either win or lose. Profit equals success, nothing else matters. The risks available for us to take gradually increase, and there are other opportunities we can exploit to try to increase our returns even further. Our economies grow, and grow and grow. We laugh and banter with the others at our table.

It’s exciting. It’s like a much more fun, live version of Monopoly. Our individual piles of casino chips reach dizzying, precarious heights. They can’t get much taller before they will most defiitely collapse. But the idea of failure isn’t mentioned until its too late. Three sinister performers who oversee the entire operation deliver ominous messages from other tables. The experience soon takes a darker turn. 

It’s easy to see where this is going not long after it gets underway. Common knowledge of the economy’s reliance on a boom and bust cycle is a big giveaway, but this doesn’t at all negate the game/show’s ability to engage. It taps into our competitive and strategic natures enough so that we disregard what we know – we just might become too big to fail regardless of the state of things.

The company are cold and calculating, in positions of authority that, as an audience, we implicitly trust. We behave well, follow their instructions and succeed lilke proud children. When things fall apart, our complicity rings loudly in our heads. This is our fault.

It’s easy to blame the banks, these huge, global systems that dominate our lives, on such an elemental level. But wouldn’t we do the same if we were in their shoes? £¥€$ (LIES) posits that we would, and would do so with relish. It’s a chilling thought left with us after an otherwise heady experience.

£¥€$ (LIES) runs through 27 August.

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