20 Feb 2013

Art of protest: new play questions roots of financial crisis

A new play on the financial crisis – and the Occupy movement it provoked – warns If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep and asks what it really means to be political.

Do we really have to pay off the debts caused by the financial crisis?

Why has nobody been held to account?

And is austerity necessary?

Those are some of the questions posed by a new play at London’s Royal Court Theatre. If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep stars Meera Syal and a cast who grapple on stage with the complexities of the financial crisis.

Angry but energised

Meera Syal told me: “There were points when I was reading it when my mouth fell open and I thought ‘why don’t I know this?’. I mean, it’s out there; it’s on the net, why don’t we know it? I think people will come away feeling the scales have dropped. There’s a whole layer of the financial scandal I knew nothing about. You’re left feeling angry but also energised.”

The playwright is Anders Lustgarten who won the inaugural Harold Pinter award for a new commission for the Royal Court. He’s an activist who spent some time involved in the Occupy movement that was so much in the news a little over a year ago. His play is full of anger at what he and many others perceive as the unfairness that those responsible for the financial crisis haven’t been held accountable.

It’s also watchable, insightful and funny.

“I’m not offering alternatives to capitalism”, he says. “But I am asking interesting questions. And that’s what the play does.”

The stage is bare but for a sign saying “The Court of Public Opinion”. For the next few weeks, the Royal Court has become just that.