Hannah Ringham's Free Show Bring Money - Free

Mon 22nd – Sat 27th August 2011


Xandra Burns

at 12:02 on 28th Aug 2011



I keep changing my mind about whether Hannah Ringham’s Free Show (Bring Money) is offensively bad or ingeniously profound. Throughout the show my opinion of her vacillates between respect and disgust. At first the show is funny - Hannah Ringham says “This show is free. Free, free, free,” and proceeds to use the word “free” at least twenty more times in the first five minutes. Her shameless plea for money is cute at first, but the show doesn’t really go anywhere from there, instead creating the feeling of being trapped in the same room as a street beggar for an hour, but the difference is that people on the street are generally kinder, less intrusive, and, if attempting entertainment, much more persuasive.

Ringham cycles through a range of strategies to pull our heartstrings, attempting to evoke pity, guilt, inclusiveness, and even love. She has no problem with picking on her audience, pressuring them to give her money, insisting that they take their money back, inquiring about their own financial situations, and accusing them of appearing privileged.

Parts of the performance are clever, and some are almost funny. It questions the value of money, art, performance, and simple human generosity. She urges us to pay what we thinks the show is worth, hinting at the touchy issue of how much anything is worth, and what counts enough as “working for it.” I want to give her credit for provoking thought at these issues, but this idea isn’t compelling enough on its own - with an impossible number of performances available to attend at a range of prices at the Fringe it seems condescending to teach an audience about the value of money and time.

The most creative part of the show is the ideas behind it: the title, the premise, the promotional buttons and poster, the intricate map presented on the free program. Potential lies in this piece, but the performance itself accuses rather than encourages the audience, leaving a tone of discomfort and dissatisfaction.


Donnchadh O'Conaill

at 12:05 on 28th Aug 2011



This was a show with a single basic theme, and a single basic problem. And just as the show involved teasing out the theme in various ways, so the basic problem arose in different varieties. The basic problem is that the show had a single theme, and was committed to constantly drawing attention to this. In effect, Glen Neath’s script boxed Hannah Ringham in and sealed her up in metatheatrical musings about freedom and money.

The stage is almost completely bare, with light changes and occasional music the main concessions to orthodox production values. At first, the show seems to be a mixture of storytelling and musings on same, but soon the real theme emerges. Ringham pleads with us, butters us up, emotionally blackmails us, all in an effort to squeeze out some money, moving adroitly from one approach to the next and mostly avoiding the trap of becoming strident.

Ringham is a peculiar performer. She introduces the show in a relaxed manner, but is able to move through the gears later, making impassioned pleas and personal revelations. But her on-stage manner is much less varied. Even when ostensibly putting us at out ease, she stands awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot. As with much else in this show, it is not clear to what extent this is part of the performance, drawing attention to its own theatricality, or whether it is a failure to overcome the limitations of the piece.

There are a number of neat ideas here, mostly very well realised: ‘sexy’ dancing, demands for money ‘up front’ before a story will be continued, addressing a single audience member in increasingly intimate terms. The problem is with the big idea of a free show, a show where we are free to give money or not as we see fit. Once this theme is made clear, it quickly becomes apparent that the show has nowhere else to go. There is no overall narrative to carry us, and any attempt to develop Ringham’s character is undermined by the constant direct pleas to the audience and her running commentary on what is happening. The self-awareness and the constant references to the themes undercut any chance of emotional engagement with Ringham’s plight.

This piece could have been intriguing if squeezed into twenty minutes or half an hour; over the course of an hour, it flatlines.


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