Edinburgh Fringe 2013
The trill-toned financial headmistress, Mrs Moneypenny, educates a rather affluent looking Saturday lunchtime audience on the art of superscrimping, with the aid of some colourful and entertaining guests.
To my second in the series of lunchtime Spoken Word events hosted by the Assembly Rooms. And, like the previous day when I had to put up with an hour of largely incoherent and at times inaudible rambling from Guardian’s political correspondent, Simon Hoggart, we are late going in. Technical problems with the previous show, The Amazing Bubble Man, apparently. Perhaps he’d run out of detergent. The technical glitches continued through Mrs M’s intro as well, with squeaks and squawks from both radio and hand mikes and a tech team that struggled to find “on” and “off” switches for either her slides or, more prosaically, the lights.
Many a performer would have thrown a wobbly at that point and especially when these sins were repeated later in the show, but Mrs M is made of sterner stuff. Wading into a sparse audience that barely filled the front five rows of the cavernous Music Hall, she conducted a straw poll on who was a Superscrimper (the title of her popular Channel 4 series) and who wasn’t. This being the posh end of the Edinburgh Fringe on a Saturday lunchtime, around 90% of those questioned weren’t really into scrimping at all, unless that meant shopping in Waitrose for food rather than Jenner’s food hall. So it was no surprise that, when questioned, most people also couldn’t remember the last thing they bought without telling their partner how much they spent on it. So much for recession hit Britain.
But were we in for an hour of just this? Fortunately not. Like any good interviewer, Mrs M knows when to move things on, which she duly did by introducing the first of three quite different and interesting guests. Step forward Michael Moore (Secretary of State for Scotland in case you didn’t know) who’d traded the pleasures of a trip to see Rumpelstiltskin with his wife and four year old for a comfy sofa pinched from the CEO of Tesco’s internet banking arm (the show had to have a scrimping theme to it, naturally).
Moore is a refreshing example of a cabinet minister who has had a real job – he trained and worked as an accountant for many years before going into politics as a Lib Dem, where he is currently MP for the 1500 square miles that is his Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituency. He was also delightfully open and self-deprecating in his answers to the series of economic and money related questions posed by the rather trill-voiced Mrs M. Not a sound-bite was uttered and he’s good at turning closed questions into open answers, as well as being fulsome in his praise for politicians that hail from outside the ranks of the custard-yellow hue of the Lib Dems. Such honesty and relaxed charm must mean he’ll go no further up the greasy pole of power.
Next up was Mrs M’s fellow FT columnist, Merryn Somerset Webb, who’s forthright opinions on a range of economic and investment issues are well worth paying attention to. Gold was her theme for much of 2012 and the price of houses is her current bête noire. Like her,I’ve always felt that buying a house is the equivalent of buying Treasury stock – you get an economic benefit as long as you own it (through the avoidance of rent) but you run the risk that the capital value could change for the worse. Most people think the price of their house is linked to supply and demand and its value is therefore only going to go up. It isn’t. Just like Treasury stock, house prices are linked to interest rates. And any investor knows that if interest rates rise, the value of Treasury stock falls. So you can see why Cameron and Osborne are desperate to keep interest rates low. But Canute can only hold back the tide for so long.
Ali Velshi was her third interesting guest. He’s just launching ‘Real Money’ for Al Jazeera, now the biggest news organization in the world apparently. Having done his bit to boost the Scottish economy by purchasing a kilt and all the trimmings for his appearance here, it was only fair that Mrs M lobbed him some easy pitches that allowed him to demonstrate just what a consummate show host he is.
It’s an interesting move on the part of the Assembly Rooms to give over their prime venue virtually every day at 12.30pm for an hour of spoken word. This show worked, largely because of the enthusiastic Mrs M and her very entertaining guests. Money is close to most people’s hearts but an hour talking about it may not be, so only go to see one of Mrs M’s other two shows (on 17th and 24th) if money, the economy and business in general floats your boat as much as it does mine.