views

When it comes to the crunch, this is too trite

<strong>Theatre<br />THE POWER OF YES<br />The National Theatre</strong><br />***<br /><br />&ldquo;THIS is not a play,&rdquo; the narrator announces ominously as the curtains open. Instead it is a &ldquo;story&rdquo; of the credit crunch conducted through interviews with key financial figures, including mathematician Myron Scholes (Malcolm Sinclair) co-father of the Scholes-Black option-pricing model which underpinned much financial wizardry, FSA head Adair Turner (also Sinclair), and hedge fund guru George Soros (Bruce Myers).<br /><br />Writer David Hare was commissioned by the National Theatre following several plays that unpack current crises &ndash; Stuff Happens dealt with the Iraq War and Via Dolorosa the Israel-Palestine conflict. He went about his job dutifully, and the result is something like a dramatised Power Point presentation.<br /><br />But that doesn&rsquo;t mean it&rsquo;s not deeply enjoyable. The acting is superb. But the less you know about finance, the more you&rsquo;ll enjoy this play. The narrator/Hare figure admits to keeping his money in the Post Office and doesn&rsquo;t know what securitised credit arrangements are, nor quantitative easing &ndash; watching them explained is lovely if you don&rsquo;t know, possibly irksome if you do.<br /><br />That said, the narrator&rsquo;s credit crunch lesson (and ours) is conducted by a figure so compelling that you can just enjoy the sound of her voice even if you are already familiar with what she&rsquo;s explaining &ndash; the Serbian Masa Serdarevic (Jemima Rooper), a 24 year old ex-Lehman Brothers employee about to join the Financial Times. She sounds sage, cheerful, sanguine &ndash; and above the mess that she so clearly explains. Bruce Myers is great and Ian Gelder is a wonderfully disgruntled private equity investor.<br /><br />What grates, ultimately, is Hare&rsquo;s too-predictable personal stance. At the very end the narrator starts huffing and puffing about what bankers and capitalism have done to us &ndash; it&rsquo;s an unsophisticated and boring take-home message that mars the otherwise engaging production.<br /><br /><strong>Zoe Strimpel</strong><br /><br /><strong>Film<br />UP<br />Cert: PG</strong><br />****<br /><br />UP is the latest cartoon from Pixar, the company behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo and last year&rsquo;s WALL-E. While it doesn&rsquo;t quite trump those films, it certainly shares the latter&rsquo;s tendency to pull on the heart-strings. An early sequence that takes us silently through the entire cycle of a loving relationship &ndash; from childhood romance to married life and eventual bereavement &ndash; put tears in my eyes just 15 minutes in.<br /><br />Thereafter it&rsquo;s a hoot. The bereaved old man, Carl Frederiksen, sets out on the adventure he and his wife always put off &ndash; going in search of a fabled land in South America, and taking the house with them. With thousands of colourful balloons streaming out from the chimney, he drifts off into the sky, with a tubby boy scout called Russell mistakenly along for the ride.<br /><br />In their lost world they encounter talking dogs, a giant bird with a taste for chocolate, and a dastardly old hunter-explorer who&rsquo;s been stranded here for decades plotting his glorious return.<br /><br />Up is a cheerily whimsical and old-fashioned dream adventure, with some good jokes and, as you&rsquo;d expect, miraculous animation &ndash; the finale with characters clambering around the outside of a soaring blimp is quite dizzying. We&rsquo;re used to such visual dazzle now though, and it&rsquo;s the film&rsquo;s touching emotional heart that sticks in the memory.<br /><br /><strong>Timothy Barber</strong><br /><br /><strong>Art<br />POP LIFE<br />Tate Modern</strong><br />***<br /><br />TATE Modern&rsquo;s winter show, a tour through art&rsquo;s response to consumerism over the past 30 years, made headlines last week due to a work by Richard Prince featuring pictures of the 10-year-old Brooke Shields nude. Given that the show presents gossip-mongering and controversy as the holy grail of modern artistic ambition, one can only imagine the curators to have been delighted with the brouhaha that followed.<br /><br />The show takes Andy Warhol&rsquo;s glitzy, celebrity-obsessed late period as the jumping-off point for an exhibition of art which tackles the consumerism. Three of the artists on show display themselves in pornographic situations, including Jeff Koons&rsquo; monumental images of himself copulating with his porn-star wife. Elsewhere Piotr Uklanski&rsquo;s wall of Hollywood Nazis is a sharp piece of satire, and a room of Takashi Murakami&rsquo;s Japanese pop fantasies is a colourful release from the general sense of grubbiness. Of course, there has to be a Damien Hirst section, with a sheep lurking in formaldehyde, a spot painting, and a pair of real-life twins sitting back reading magazines.<br /><br />There&rsquo;s lots of arresting imagery here, but the ideas get lost and it all feels rather arbitrary and scattershot. It&rsquo;s fun, in a lurid and slightly sickly way, but I&rsquo;m not sure the exhibition says much about either art or life.<br /><br /><strong>TB</strong>