BBC Radio 4, 28 February 2012
In Julian Gough's satire, Jude (Rory Keenan) is discovered living in
a hen-house with no roof in the bankrupt Republic of Squanderland. The task of putting a roof on it soon spins out of control:
as a result of the (unwanted) intervention of Europe's financial power, the Squanderland government commits themselves to
building a roof, half a mile above the entire country. Confounding expert opinion, this structure actually does
fail, prompting Jude to devise a fanciful solution to the Eurozone crisis.
Like the financial crisis itself, the plot of The Great Squanderland Roof
spins out of control, with absurdity piled upon absurdity, as the Eurocrats strive to maintain the illusion that they
are actually interested in improving people's lives. Author Gough's dialogue has a Huxleyesque feel: Jude is
told by his Eurocrat advisers (Clare Corbett, James Lailey, Adjoa Andoh) to spend and save at the same time. In
the brave new world of the Eurozone, hard work and individual achievement count for nothing: everyone is expected to make
sacrifices - in other words, pay more and more - to "keep the markets happy." Gough makes a valid point here: whenever I turn
on the British news, it seems that reporters are far more concerned to solicit the views of London-based financial
'experts' who comment blithely on the Eurozone crisis (in Greece, for instance), without once considering the effect of that
crisis on ordinary people's lives.
But perhaps the reporters themselves have no real idea what's going on. This was
underlined in Gough's play by the presence of the BBC's Stephanie Flanders - playing herself - who perpetually tried and failed
to understand the Eurocrats' linguistic gobbledegook. It seemed as if they were trying to disinform rather
than inform. They might not be entirely to blame for this; they espouse an ecomomic theory and a belief
in market forces which are both pitifully inadequate to deal with the current pan-European crisis.
While Di Speirs' production contained elements of savage humour, it nonetheless expressed
the belief (shared by the majority of Europe's citizens) that little or nothing can be done to improve a world dominated
by "the markets" rather than the interests of the people.