Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

Play Dough

Unlimited Theatre and Clare Duffy

Genre: Children's Theatre

Venue: Northern Stage @ King’s Hall


Low Down

What is money? Did you know you can make it with just the power of your imagination? Join us for the game show where you play with 10,000 real pound coins.

Our hosts lead two teams through a series of high-energy games whilst telling you everything they know about how money really works. You can’t take any of the cash home with you but if your team wins, you get to decide the end of the story.


Play Dough is a children’s show from Northern Stage that attempts to explain the financial crisis and the money markets in plain terms at the same time as having fun. Not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination, but one that Unlimited Theatre manage to achieve remarkably well. With £10,000 real pound coins to play with (and a security guard on hand to check that none get spirited away into anyone’s pockets), the stakes are high and the game is on.

It is a noble task to try and make young children understand what the financial crash was, why it happened and how money and investment work. It’s not something that I understand myself with any great clarity, and so I was glad to pick up some clear information from this show as well. The performance begins as a game show, with some super high-energy performers whipping up their teams and egging them on to beat the others in this money making game. I have the utmost respect for these actors, as the show depends entirely on audience participation and is aimed at kids aged 7+, but what they had to work with was a handful of bleary eyed adults and three children. I don’t feel as though I got the full experience of the show on the day I went, and I would love to have seen the delight with which children would have played the games involving scooping hundreds of pound coins into buckets.

The game show element, which distilled things like investment and hedging your bets into simple games involving balloons, was interspersed with a story about a young girl whose parents had lost all their money in 2008, and she was forced to go and live with her cousin in a tiny flat in Edinburgh. This humanising of the impact of the financial crisis was very important, and the relationship between Queenie and her cousin was nicely played. Both actors were excellent performers, managing to simultaneously play the roles of teachers and teenagers without being patronising.

The strangeness of money and what it actually means is an important topic to introduce to children at a young age. I am sure that much of the play’s economic content would have gone over the heads of most children, but nonetheless if a little bit of it sunk in, and got them thinking and asking questions then the play has done its job. I am very sorry that they had such a poor audience when I saw it, and I would like to see the show again with a full house and see how much of a difference that makes.