Show Me the Money
- Gareth K Vile
- 4 August 2017
An honest chat about the battle between art and commerce
Introducing her attitude towards money with a gentle spot of audience interaction, Paula Varjack is troubled by the British reticence about financial matters. Through a series of interviews – projected onto a screen at the back of the stage – she attempts a conversation about the relationship between a living wage and remaining creative, with the help of taxi drivers, an economist and even an arts administrator.
Varjack's onstage presence is charming: her confession of her own privileges and the cost of this show add honesty and transparency to the meandering meditations on the business of art. Breaking the performance into distinct and sometimes unconnected scenes, she reflects on the instability of her career, a manifesto for creativity, specific financial worries and her complex relationship with funding bodies.
There are moments of brilliance in the production: Varjack jams on the jargon of funding applications and thwarted ambition, and revels in an exotic fantasy about the promised land of the English Arts' Council. Her confident delivery and charisma is placed at the service of her research, preventing a descent into maudlin self-pity: the presence of other voices empowers her arguments against the excessive demands made on the artist for limited reward. Individual sequences dissect specific challenges in detail, but the fragmented structure never builds into a powerful argument.
Unfortunately, references to austerity ignore wider concerns: an early question about the connection between art and money is answered only vaguely, and the description of her own funding only suggests that Varjack's anxieties are solipsistic rather than political. Even in a conversation with her father, an economist, she seems to avoid relating the artist's lack of wealth to non-artists' poverty, leaving the impression of an under-developed concept hidden beneath a performance style that privileges self-interest over incisive analysis.
Bedlam Theatre, until 13 Aug (not 5 & 6), 3.30pm, £10 (£8).