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Serious Money by Caryl Churchill, adapted by Emma Harding

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Drama on 3 on BBC Radio 3

BBC Radio 3, 8 September 2013
 
First performed in 1987, Serious Money satirizes the financial excesses and corporate rapacity that characterized the latter years of Thatcherite Britain. All the characters are driven by the desire for money, even if it means sacrificing business loyalties and/or family ties.  While the government makes a pretence of regulating them through the work of the DTI (the Department of Trade and Industry), it rewards the most successful dealers with knighthoods, ambassadorships and influential positions (for example, running the Royal National Theatre).  Many of the points Churchill makes are still significant today; in both Britain and the United States, money-makers receive similar rewards (as well as fat pay-offs if they are forced to leave their posts due to corrupt practices).
 
Serious Money works particularly well on radio.  The action unfolds in a series of discrete scenes; while there is a semblance of a plot, Churchill is far more interested in language and characterization.  To demonstrate the timelessness of her material, she begins the play with an extract from Thomas Shadwell's seventeenth century verse comedy The Stock-Jobbers; and continues to employ verse throughout the subsequent action.  Emma Harding's production gave the cast full opportunity to stress the nuances of Churchill's verse; her outrageous rhymes and clever use of the iambic pentameter form combine to create a colourful yet worthless world in which words mean everything and nothing.  The characters love to speak, yet we should never believe anything they say.
 
Harding's production contained some notable performances.  David Horovitch's Corman thought of himself as an elder statesperson, his lofty delivery suggesting some kind of superiority over his fellow wheeler-dealers.  Yet it was evident that he was as corrupt as anyone else; he just employed different methods to achieve his aims.  Melanie Bond's Jacinta Condor portrayed herself as an international jet-setter enjoying everything that London had to offer; but this fašade concealed a particular talent for scheming and forming shifting financial alliances.  Of the younger characters, Scilla Todd (Hattie Morahan) was considered by many to be a "rising star"; in this production, her stardom derived mostly from her ability to make more money than anyone else.  She was even prepared to manipulate her father (Brian Bowles) if it suited her.
 
Colin Sell provided the kind of light-hearted musical accompaniment that he might have used in I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (he has been a permanent fixture in that series).  This strategy underlined Churchill's thematic purpose: to the speculators, the business of making money was nothing more than a game.  The fact that ordinary people suffered on account of their dealings never entered their minds.