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Behind the Scenes: An Introduction to 'Bank On It'

By Sue Buckmaster, Theatre-Rites Artistic Director

Through the doors of a rather ordinary building, schools and families will encounter an interactive and magical financial world, where children will be allowed to play with economics.

We have been creating theatrical journeys for children and adults to experience together since 1996, when we produced an intimate experience for under-fives in an ordinary house. Later we reflected on the NHS by creating a show in an unused hospital ward, where it was the hospital equipment and furniture that needed the care and attention of the theatrical doctors and the young audience. Internationally, Theatre-Rites has taken over large industrial buildings, asking its audience to reflect on the meaning of belief systems and old mining industries. It seems timely that, in 2013, Theatre-Rites will be creating a theatrical event which will give the audience an opportunity to reflect on the world of Money and Resources. A show called ‘Bank On It.’

‘Bank On It,’ like previous Theatre-Rites’ site-responsive shows, will gently guide a group of children and their accompanying adults around a real building in the heart of London and then Coventry. Whether a school group with their teachers, or a gathering of families, they will be promenaded around the interior of what first appears to be a run-down, unloved venue. They will have an expectation that this could be a swanky new Bank, but it is only on-line that this Bank looks plush. The reality is very different; something has gone wrong in this land of finance. Gradually the audience will become aware of how the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

In order to make sense of children's understanding of economics, it needs to be placed in the broader context of their understanding of society. A basic understanding of the use of economic and social resources is constantly practiced in the playground. Children between the ages of 5-10 increase their understanding of money and its uses gradually. By 11-12 they tend to have a model of understanding which reflects the values and influences of the adults around them.

As adults we are beginning to realize our own lack of economic awareness. What have we passed on to children; what is our legacy? It is an important time to respect this new generation and empower them to establish and define a better and transparent economic system, which serves all. But it is only just beginning.

Theatre has always given us the opportunity to reflect on important issues. A collaboration between the study of economics and the creativity of visual theatre promises to release new thinking and a certain bravery regarding this “hot topic”. We hope to trigger essential interest in young people, to release the burden in their carers and to inspire invention in the artists and economists who are involved. ‘Bank On It’ will not attempt to solve the economic crisis but it will offer an original way of gazing at it, in the hope that it might just ignite some new insight.

Maybe it will inspire a future economist in the audience, or help someone give statistical information a little colour to get it noticed, or encourage an artist to describe the value of their work in the wider world? The outcome, like the game of economics, is anyone’s guess but if you believe in children, as Theatre-Rites does, then there is often a high return on investment.

What can we Bank On? Our children and their vision for the future. So let’s feed their imaginations.

‘Bank On It,’ is the first production to come to fruition through a new programme called ‘This_Is_Tomorrow.’ The programme, created by the University of Warwick Arts Centre to connect artists and academic experts, brought Theatre-Rites Artistic Director Sue Buckmaster into the University of Warwick Department of Economics last year. The interaction with Department Head Abhinay Muthoo and other economics professors int the Department led her to explore economics themes related to the financial crisis and ultimately led to ‘Bank On It,’ was performed in London during the summer and will be arriving in Coventry this autumn.

Theatre-Rites is a London-based artistic company that aims to create distinct work that feeds the imaginations of young people and gives them memorable theatrical experiences. Founded in 1995, the company has established a reputation for excellence and innovation by creating works that are both challenging and inspirational. It is committed to working with artists to present children with unusual contemporary imagery and to push the boundaries of theatrical form.