Highly illuminating and thought-provoking, yet humorous!
Written by winner of the 2018 York ‘Script Factor’, Sophie Buckley, ‘The Price’ was certainly worth the money! Directed by Jim Paterson and produced by Helen Wilson, the play was performed at a favourite York pub, the Eagle and Child on High Petergate. It deals with numerous engaging issues surrounding not only the history of cryptocurrency but also various concepts of value: both in a monetary and in an emotional sense.
Throughout the performance, a disturbing reminder of the fluctuation of both trends and of Bitcoin flashed upon the wall in an almost dystopian fashion. From the outset, members of the audience were participants in the performance, directly addressed by a charming yet bogus salesman (Liam Godfrey) who exhorted us to invest in a new cryptocurrency, ‘Antheum’. He suddenly froze and the meta-narrative broke into the play’s main narrative elements.
In the general plot, a young construction worker (David Phillipps) bids his sweetheart (Joy Warner) farewell as she leaves to read philosophy at Cambridge. While she is there, the relationship comes under strain as the young woman encounters a smarmy and unscrupulous lecturer (Thomas Jennings) who entices her both romantically and then financially into investing in Bitcoin. As this story plays out, the audience is shown intermittent recordings of a distressed woman (Jess Murray) being convicted for numerous crimes by the Californian state.
Inspired by real events surrounding Bitcoin, the play is an ingenious commentary on cryptocurrency, the danger of unrealistic or confused dreams, and – what I at least inferred – a certain arrogance that exists in academia. It draws upon the true story of a Welshman who discarded a hard drive containing £70 million worth of Bitcoin and also that of the founder of the Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. The character whose story reflects that of Ross Ulbricht was portrayed by Jess Murray, who was seen only via video recording until later on in the play, making her entrance particularly striking. Her performance in the video as she was convicted was convincing and powerful and left me wide-eyed. Her live performance towards the end of the performance then played a critically cohesive role in terms of the plot.
The relationship between the young couple almost reduced me to tears in parts! Though I was surprised to see David Phillipps in the role of a sweet, honest young builder (I’m sure he perhaps should have had a slightly less RP accent), his performance was marvellous and even rather heart-breaking. Equally impressive was that of Joy Warner, who evolved from a naïve fresher at university to a resolute woman finally marrying her true sweetheart and realising what matters in life (note: not Bitcoin!). Thomas Jennings, who played the both idealistic and lecherous lecturer, truly brought alive that kind of character whom those of us who went to certain universities will definitely have met at least once in our lives. Suffice it to say, by the end none of the audience seemed very keen to invest in ‘Antheum’… At least, I hope so, in spite of Liam Godfrey’s persuasive orations.
A mere hour and a half long, the performance was expertly crafted to interact with the space it was in, which was not particularly large and was thus created a quite intensely intimate environment. The whole thing both really entertained me and really made me think, and I don’t think you can ask for too much more from a theatre performance!
Watch out for more events by the York Settlement Community Players, including play readings, a Christmas Extravaganza on 7 December, and the production of The Duchess of Malfi from 16 March 2019.
Claudia L. Wardle | 29 November 2018
Photo credits: S R Taylor Photography – www.srtaylorphotography.com