Belgian theatre company Ontroerend Goed's production ŁĄ€$ (Lies) that features a cast of performers from Belgium and Hong Kong is an interactive experience for a show that splits up their audience across tables that work as independent "banks" that builds on a collective economy by pushing it towards a state of fulfillment. The title aims to deceive, by reading 'lies' or 'eyes' in the form of the symbols for Pound, Yen, Euro and Dollar, thereby giving you a hint of what this money-fueled experience has in store for us - the initially naive audience - who is eventually ignited with a fire to compete in what appears to be a cut-throat economy.
The concept of this show aims to define and recognize how we, as the consumers, contribute towards the flourishing of our economic system and what it's like to be part of the affluent 1%. Taking steps such as merging with other banks, buying investments, and risking more to win more will help bring up your status, while having issues such as tax evasion, low profits / high losses, and low amounts of bonds bought within as well as from other countries will subject your status to be left dwindling with uncertainty. After all, you gotta spend money to make money, right?
Walking into the show, audience members were escorted to their respective semicircle tables. It felt like being at the casino, especially with the poker chips that were in a mahogany briefcase placed next to our croupier, who sat across from us. It seemed like we were going to be playing a game of Monopoly, except this wasn't going to be a lighthearted game with familiar people, but instead, we were going to be carrying out serious business, with some really high stakes over our heads, where it was each person for themselves.
I am normally not a huge fan of shows or experiences that go on for more than an hour, so when I found out that this show was going to last two hours...I had some initial reservations. However, once we got into this dark room that was only illuminated in parts to highlight the tables and started 'making money' for our respective economies, time flew by so quickly and before we knew it, we had unlocked status achievements in comparison to other banks and were in a state of stability and control. Before I knew it, I was having a ton of fun making money (and making mistakes and learning from them). It also became quickly apparent that we weren't playing for fun. We were playing to survive.
It gets a bit overwhelming and confusing at times, so don't be alarmed if you lose track of what is happening in front of you, because you'll eventually find your way back through this twisted world where money really does make the world go around. This is a clever concept of an interactive 'show' that hopes to demonstrate the power of money and the importance of a stable economy to flourish, thanks to injecting charming characters who personify your typical stockholder status and entice the audiences into magical traps by throwing out terms such as investments, loans, mergers, and special discounts / one-time limited offers. The dramatic level of theatrics around the rush of a failing economy, coupled with a thumping soundtrack to set the mood of urgency, in addition to getting the "financial experts" from each 'country' momentarily created a tense atmosphere where everyone's survival instincts kicked in naturally and all of a sudden, there was the need to protect our table from being lost to the black hole of darkness. With very little dialogue and a lot of movement, audiences were quickly sucked into the addictive gamble of the 'game' that felt more like a competition around halfway through the experience show.
I played it super safe (mostly because I felt clueless about 80% of the time and I'm generally not the best with money handling), but there were others at my table who were less timid and decided to give in to the gamble - and obviously, in some cases, it worked in their favour! Ultimately, your goal is to keep the economy afloat. Unless you're after personal gain; in which case, make sure you take the risk to reap bigger rewards. It will also give you insight into the financial crash that sees some crumble under pressure, to the point that they are ejected entirely from our economic system.
I'm personally happy to have walked away with an IOU of around $40 million, so for someone who has zero knowledge about how the economy worked (prior to this show), I'd say I'm proud as punch for my efforts, which entirely revolved around winging through this immersive and enjoyable experience that involved a crash course on economics with a bunch of amazing strangers-turned-acquaintances!
Tip: Bring some cash. The larger the amount the better - it will make playing the game a lot more fun. And yes, you will get your money back at the end of the experience. Also, be brave and go solo, because you will find yourselves in the midst of interesting and exciting company!