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Serious Money


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Thomas Shadwell (c. 1642—1692) playwright and poet

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A: Caryl Churchill Pf: 1987, London Pb: 1987 G: Satire in 2 acts; free verse, mostly rhymed, and some prose S: London, 1692; London and New York, 1980s C: 17m, 7f, extrasAfter a scene of stock dealing from Thomas Shadwell's 1692 comedy The Volunteers, or The Stockjobbers, 1980s' stockbrokers trade and meet later in a champagne bar: Scilla Todd, her brother Jake, and the yobbish Grimes. It is a world where at least two dozen brokers earn over £1 million a year, people retire, rich, in their thirties, and banks make more money from share-dealing than from traditional banking. Jake commits suicide, apparently because of an impending government investigation, but Scilla fears he may have been murdered to shut him up. In flashback, one of Jake's contacts Billy Corman, ruthless corporate raider, plans a hostile takeover of a firm called Albion. Jake recommends to Marylou Baines in New York that she should buy Albion shares. Jacinta Condor from Peru, despairing of the hopeless economic situation of Latin America, invests in Corman's takeover but betrays him by reselling her stake. An African conman persuades Corman to part with £2 million. The Conservative government puts pressure on Corman to abandon his deal, so as to avoid scandal. When they are re-elected, he gets a peerage. Perhaps the government ordered the killing of Jake, perhaps he committed suicide after all. Scilla gives up her search for his murderer and becomes Marylou's assistant. ‘Five more glorious years’ of Conservative government will make sure that the City remains ‘pissed and promiscuous, the money's ridiculous’.

A: Caryl Churchill Pf: 1987, London Pb: 1987 G: Satire in 2 acts; free verse, mostly rhymed, and some prose S: London, 1692; London and New York, 1980s C: 17m, 7f, extras

Churchill's scathing onslaught on post-Thatcher Britain and the ‘get-rich quick’ dealers who flourished in the 1980s and 1990s was surprisingly popular both in Britain and the USA with audiences drawn from the moneyed classes that the play was attacking. Churchill points out that capitalist greed is nothing new: ‘We're only doing just the same | All you bastards always done.… Just as clever, just as vile.’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Caryl Churchill (b. 1938) English dramatist


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