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About Money by Eliza Gearty at Theatre 503 | Review

I have had zero-hour contracts before, but they are simply not sustainable as a main source of income – it’s too unpredictable. I’ve been privileged enough not to have relied on such precarious employment arrangements to make a living too heavily, and if a shift gets cancelled or hours and/or hours are reduced at short notice, I’m not exactly begging for bread and soup. They work very well for employers, as evidenced here in About Money, with the manager of a fast-food eatery (Rohit Kumar) having a pool of workers from which a rota can be drawn up. His mannerisms and approach is somewhat exaggerated: I suspect a manager who behaved with quite so much contempt would quickly develop a reputation in the local area as a Scrooge-like figure, even a relatively large and densely populated city like Glasgow.

About MoneyBy way of financial and circumstantial necessity, Shaun (Michael McCardie, whose stage presence was so magnetic he was conspicuous by his absence whenever off-stage) finds himself underworked and underpaid, on a zero-hour contract as his main source of income. Responsible for looking after his (considerably) younger sister Sophie (a highly convincing Emma Tracey), further particulars about their family situation are sparse – Shaun doesn’t like talking about ‘it’, whatever ‘it’, in terms of the actual circumstances in which he ended up being Sophie’s carer, may be.

Shaun shares a flat with Eddie (Matthew Boyle), who quickly gets fed up with having to step in to babysit Sophie while Shaun never says no to working unsociable hours, sometimes with very little – if any – prior notice. Completing the on-stage cast is Hannah (Isabele Derosa), who has moved to Glasgow having relocated for reasons explained in the narrative (there’s an intriguing subplot about industrial relations and pushing back against unscrupulous employers), who gets as far as going on a date with Shaun. But she disappears as quickly as she popped up, for reasons not made entirely clear, and the show’s cliff-hanger ending leaves the audience wondering what happens next.

The production is evidence that bleak circumstances do not necessarily result in an exhausting and depressing theatrical experience. There is plenty of humour that permeates the dialogue, in the music and dance breaks, in the expressions of Sophie’s inquisitive and explorative mind, even in workplace banter. A bold and gritty play, some plot twists help to maintain interest, and complicate matters – in a good way, stopping the manager from being entirely evil, and (perhaps) getting Shaun and Sophie some additional support. I’m also grateful that the story unfolds in chronological order, avoiding making things unnecessarily complicated by flitting backwards and forwards.

There are elements of stereotypes that creep in: the young lads who like to swear a lot, the stubborn character who won’t ask for help, the young lady who would rather busy herself on her phone than engage in conversation with colleagues in the same room. Then again, perhaps these are also recognisable characters. While the odds seem stacked against Shaun and Sophie, it’s evident that they are likely to pull through somehow, even if that sounds like words of unsubstantiated words of comfort in adversity. There are no easy answers to their predicament, and this is very much a play for our troubled times, fearlessly highlighting some pertinent issues in a fiercely engaging and entertaining way.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Fast food worker Shaun is your average eighteen-year-old boy. He likes music, video games and getting stoned. He’s also the sole carer to his eight-year-old sister, Sophie. But without enough money for child-care, and under pressure from an unsympathetic boss, he’s forced to make decisions that could have devastating consequences.

About Money is by Glasgow-based playwright Eliza Gearty. Drawn from interviews with young kinship carers and fast food workers, and inspired by Gearty’s involvement with the McStrikes of 2018, this Glasgow-based drama is about family, love and friendship in a world where the need for money threatens to destabilize all three.

SHOW DETAILS
Dates: Mon 6th – Wed 8th September 2021 at 7.30pm
Running time: 60 minutes
Theatre503, Battersea Park Road, London SW11 3BW
https://theatre503.com/

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