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'Bank On It': Economics for the Playground Set

“Warwick Economics insights underpin a children’s theatre production coming to Coventry”

‘Bank On It’ Explained

‘Bank On It’ is an original, interactive theatre production intended to get children as young as five thinking about an invisible, powerful, sometimes unpredictable and often misunderstood force that moves our world.

We call it the economy.

The show and the artistic-academic interactions that underlie it are unusual. It is safe to say that children’s performance art and academic economics occupy two distinct worlds that seldom converge. Children’s theatre specialist Sue Buckmaster found herself exploring economics, a subject she considers far removed from her own ‘comfort zone.’ At the same time, Warwick Economics professors found themselves bewildered at the notion that their work could serve as material to be mined for theatrical performance – particularly something intended for young children. ‘Bank On It’ is the outgrowth of a new experiment for Buckmaster and for the Economics Department.

The Show

‘Bank On It’ is a theatrical experience in which the children themselves are participants, rather than members of an audience watching production onstage. ‘Bank On It’ leads children and their accompanying adults on a tour through a magical World of Finance, a place in which children play with economic concepts and issues.

The setting of ‘Bank On It’ offers an emblem for our times. It takes place in a building that appears to be a run-down bank, one at odds with an upscale image suggested to the children online. This is a venue where something has gone very wrong and where things are often not what they seem. Children will see elements of failure, but they also will be encouraged to undertake problem solving and to think about new possibilities. They will explore the power of money, but they will examine the worth of other investments, such as human resources that are equally valuable. They will examine the ways in which competition and cooperation can lead toward productive or destructive ends.

‘In this theatrical world of money, we are not just interested in telling the miserable tale of what went wrong,’ Sue Buckmaster, the show’s creator, explained. ‘It is now time, with the support of our young visitors, to conjure up with invention how to tackle this huge subject.’

Reviews

“Theatre-Rites, a company of genuine originality and flair.” The Guardian ★★★★

“Rich in humour and humanity.” The Telegraph ★★★★

“A delightful, stunningly visually inventive show. Worth every penny.” Time Out ★★★★

“Engagingly performed by the cast, this is an astute, and often beautiful show.” The Financial Times ★★★★

Read more reviews and media coverage...

The Background


‘Bank On It’ is the premier creation of ‘This_Is_Tomorrow,’ a novel programme launched by the Warwick Arts Centre in 2012 to generate new artistic ideas by connecting leading artists with pioneering academic researchers. The goal is to explore and illuminate contemporary issues that face humanity and society in our global world.

In March 2012, a trio of artists including Buckmaster arrived on campus for this first ‘academic boot camp’ to five University of Warwick departments, including Economics. Department Head Abhinay Muthoo opened the day’s discussions by explaining that economics is about money, but, more importantly, it was about far more – about thinking about conflict and cooperation, and about how to put to the best use the most valuable and finite resource of all: our time. “Economics covers everything except love,” he said.

This remark, and the passion with which it was expressed resonated with Buckmaster, who had already begun thinking about the financial crisis as a possible topic for her work in creating experiential drama for children. ‘It triggered me,” she said. ‘This subject, of economics, is totally out of my comfort zone. It’s a very different being. It wears different clothes and talks a different language and presents itself in a different way. But when he said that, it helped me to go in with feelings. My immediate thought was that I think even love can be seen on economic terms, because you have to ask yourself have I got the resources to invest in loving this person and will this person have the resources to invest in loving me.’

After the initial day of sessions with a half a dozen professors, individual sessions followed with others, including: Andrew Oswald, a pioneer researcher in the field of happiness and well-being in economics; Michael McMahon, a macroeconomist who studies business cycles and monetary policies and works with the Bank of England; Jennifer Smith, a specialist on the labour market and wage dynamics and also works with the Bank of England.

‘This all told me how much different people focus on different elements of the economy in order to understand our world,’ Buckmaster said. ‘They were passionate about their understandings, their particular papers. I understood the bigger subject better because of all these individual passions. It’s only when you look at all the detail of the passion that you begin to understand the enormity of the subject.’

These discussions were only one part of a creative process that included questioning school children of various ages about their perception of banks and money, and improvisational work with other artists and actors to explore the elements and games that would work in the drama.

In the process, Buckmaster and Muthoo began to see that economic research was not so remote from the business of creating playful drama for the youngest audience, after all. Competition and cooperation, two elements of economic research, are also quintessential characteristics of the school playground.

‘We are thrilled that our economic insights could play a behind-the-scenes role in Sue Buckmaster’s bold and original endeavour.

‘We salute Sue Buckmaster’s creativity and courage in taking on these issues and through the vehicle of children’s theatre, and we are intrigued by the notion that our economic insights could play a behind-the-scenes role,’ Muthoo said.

‘We hope the production will ignite essential interest in young people, and will give them and their carers “permission” to talk about money and economic uncertainty, subjects that many people sometimes find difficult to discuss, particularly in times of economic distress,’ he said. ‘It certainly ought to generate new discussions about ways in which young minds may be engaged in the difficult issues of our day. Perhaps the next generation of economic problem solvers will be caught up by this creative experience. Now that would represent a truly fantastic return on investment.’



 

Video About The Production

Photo by Tristram Kenton


Find Out More

Message from the Head of Department

An imaginative new play for children draws on fairy tales and folklore to explore the adult world of money and economics, as Abhinay Muthoo explains. (more)

Message from the show's creator

An Introduction to ‘Bank On It’ By Sue Buckmaster, Theatre-Rites Artistic Director. (more)


Performance details

‘Bank On It,’ will be presented in a mystery location in Coventry from 14 October - 2 November. (more)


Supporting materials

The Bank on It Bank website offers families the chance to open an 'account' and download a fun, educational activity pack with lots of ideas on how to explore money, banks and economics with your children. (more)


Reviews

Read some of the reviews of 'Bank on It' in the national media. (more)


Photos

See the gallery of press photos of the production on the Warwick Arts Centre website. (more)


This_is_Tomorrow

This_is_Tomorrow was a catalyst for the 'Bank On It' project. (more)