Bankers, Billy Mack, Catherine Grosvenor, Continuous Growth, Credit Crunch, Economic Growth, Edinburgh Fringe, Financial Meltdown, Hazel Ann Crawford, Martin Doherty, Productivity, Sarah McCardie, Simon Macallum, Theatre Review
[The following contains spoilers.]
Catherine Grosvenor’s “Continuous Growth” is an updated and Scotchified version of a 2011 Finnish comedy by Esa Leskinen and Sami Keski-Vähälä. It is presently residing in the Pleasance Dome. The play is essentially a picaresque in which a hapless entrepreneur journeys around the declining remains of our economy. “Continuous Growth” offers a wacky Idiot’s Guide to the credit crunch, or “A Brief History Of” rendition of the recession. Students or the uneducated could watch this show to brush up on their knowledge. Yet despite having a go at explaining the proliferation of casino banking, the play sticks mostly to the comedy. The best moment in the entire show comes when the middle-aged hero (Billy Mack) unexpectedly starts disco dancing after an inspiring meeting with his bank manager.
A lot of this play initially involves the everyman figure, Andy Axelgrinder, performing in mime whilst the rest of the cast bark out what he is doing, as both instructions and commentary. Every character is a cliché – the dopey hippy, the obnoxious teenagers, the chirpy Glaswegians – but the zeal of the cast gives a certain sparkle to even the most faded cliché. The brightest of the blooms is a cheerfully cynical banker (Simon Macallum), who is called Freddy Shreddy and comes complete with a Donald Trump hairdo. Shreddy declares that Andy must accrue debt, “…to save my economy… I mean the economy.”
Yet “Continuous Growth” is far from being as sound as the pound in its morality. It almost brings itself to announce that “continuous growth” has created a system in which everybody will end up on the shelf – including Jesus, incidentally, who at one point climbs down from his cross to complain that he cannot understand the world anymore. Henceforth, Andy’s desire for a nice house is capable of bringing down the global economy. One character despairs that, “Life is a competition and everybody loses,” but a moment later she has changed her mind. All you need is love and you should not be scared. Yet these people may well be in need of a bit of continuous growth. In our own deindustrialised economy, even the innovation of Andy’s nightmarish automated nursing system would be welcome.
The play’s message is entirely inconsequential, simply amounting to “shit happens,” but in a good farce, every fleeting detail will eventually acquire a fuller significance. Every stray pound will pay off. Andy gave his “last Rolo” to a childhood sweetheart at the age of four, and at the end of the play they find themselves sharing the same moment again as adults. How mysterious that their world is made complete in such a way. It is almost as if they are being moved by invisible hands.