Show Me The Money

Wed 2nd – Sun 13th August 2017

reviews

Chloe Moloney

at 11:14 on 5th Aug 2017

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The opening of Show Me The Money casts the audience back to Varjack’s childhood, where she lamented about her dreams and aspirations of becoming an artist from a young age. Informing us of her later life in the US, London and Madrid Varjack indeed made some valid points regarding the difficulty of striving in the creative world, however the delivery was self-cathartic and lacking in modesty. Varjack has undeniably encountered obstacles in her artistic career, and she approached these in a manner which begged for the audience to pity her trials and tribulations. It undoubtedly raised the question of whether or not Varjack had taken into account the views of her suspected audience at such a festival, or whether this was merely an opportunity to cry out for her own “manifesto” for artists in such a “crumbling” economy.

Varjack attempted to integrate elements of audience participation, regarding the topic of pay transparency. Whilst sifting through the audience, until only those with the highest payroll remained, Varjack implored us not to judge the two sheepish members who were left standing, letting us all know that they earned within the range of £200,000 to £300,000. By the end of the performance, Varjack had indulged us in not only the audience member’s salary, but those of her ten employees. Regardless of its validity in displaying the gulf of income in our contemporary society, this certainly seemed like an opportunity to both self-evaluate and spill her thoughts in an unrefined manner upon an unsuspecting audience.

The technical elements of Varjack’s performance were lacking in quality and precision. The inclusion of interviews allowed for all corners of the creative world to voice their troubling experiences, yet the clunky transitions between multi-media and Varjack’s live performance led to a fractured structure. This cracked any glint of previous professionalism, developing an amateurish atmosphere. When listing the expenses incurred to put on this show at the Fringe, the garish animations and music behind her not only distracted from Varjack’s message but left her words barely audible, with her message eventually falling stone dead.

What could have been an inspiring and informative ending, drawing to a somewhat more insightful close, was tawdry and lurid. Varjack beckoned audience members up on stage to unwittingly razzle dazzle their way through to a scrap of an ending, waving gold coins in the air and handing a sack to an audience member who proceeded to do nothing with it. For a show which heralds itself as having a life-altering core, such a conclusion brought the production to a grating halt.

It is not uncommon knowledge that creatives and artists suffer from not only undeserved payment but social derision, and it must be contended that Varjack tackled artistic issues which undoubtedly deserve more attention. Varjack had all the statistics and knowledge prepared, having conducted over forty interviews in the field. Yet, her handling of the information was haphazard and disorderly. Nevertheless, whilst succeeding in tackling a larger social issue for the creative world, Varjack’s one-woman production left her in an unclear light.

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Noah Lachs

at 12:13 on 5th Aug 2017

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A play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival about a struggling artist is almost too much of a cliché to be a reality. Nonetheless, Paula Varjack’s one-woman ‘Show Me the Money’ is a variation on this theme, and we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss it.

The project behind the performance is an admirable one. Paula Varjack has spent a year compiling interview footage from her artist-friends and family (yes, her dad features), and experimenting with art forms, in order to mourn the “crumbling arts economy” on stage. Paula has a point, neither arts funding nor payment in the arts are likely to turn any cartoon character’s pupils into dollar signs. As the title suggests, money is a central theme; you walk into the theatre to Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ and exit to another song about money. During the play—in what makes for an uncomfortable social experiment—audience members are asked what they earn, and Paula proceeds to bemoan the difficulties of making ends meet as an artist. She ends with the question “is it all worth it?” concluding, unsurprisingly, that it is, at least for now. However, our sympathy for overdrawn, credit card-wielding Paula is somewhat restricted by the harsh reality that many people live on the breadline, and not because they’ve chosen to follow their “dream.”

Paula does expose an interesting economic angle through the interview footage, though. Specifically, the tension between the artist’s need for supplementary work, and the feeling of inadequacy in not deriving full-time employment, and primary income from one’s art form. Paula might have explored this tension further; it is a window into the artist’s world through which us uncreative philistines will rarely gaze. Instead, the show takes a political turn. We should have expected this from the off. When Paula begins the performance explaining her accent, she also describes its country of origin as a place where pledging allegiance to a flag is normal, but “where healthcare and gun-control are dirty words.” This may or may not be true of the USA, yet, how exactly this analysis fits into her project about the precariousness of being an artist is unclear. Paula stays on the soapbox and proceeds to decry Brexit (recounting her experiences of working with pro-EU homeless people and students), suggests we “check our privilege”, and renounces capitalism. Irrespective of the validity of these critiques, they do not take artistic form, and are unsubtle and simplistic. Edinburgh is a great university city, but visitors tend not to come to the Fringe in order to see the University’s student socialist council. However, when Paula is not opining, she is showing us how multitalented she is. The performance features everything from a mini-DJ set, to a spoken word performance, and most of these scenes (including the interview footage) are stitched together intelligently.

Despite sometimes feeling held hostage to a stranger’s rant, this patchwork performance is nonetheless a showcase of Paula’s diverse talents, and an informative depiction of the struggles of being a professional artist. It is hard not to leave feeling sorry for Paula, and her sculpting, painting, and performing peers. However, the pity expires before becoming compassion. Furthermore, her doomsday warning and rallying cry for hope ring somewhat grandiose for a play that ends with audience members on stage, facilitating a gold-steeped “Broadway finale”.

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