Through the doors of an ordinary looking building in Haggerston, an extraordinary bank resides. On the surface, all seems as grey and uninteresting as you’d expect but the man trapped inside the cash machine gives away that all is not as it seems. Unable to access their money, a group of irate customers invite us down a rabbit hole of sorts in hot pursuit of the bank manager.
Surprisingly Bank On it proves that dry topics like the economic crisis can make great stories for kids. Using immersive theatre techniques, larger than life characters and a couple of very organised puppets, Theatre Rites manage to draw their young audience into their world. In fact, the school group on our visit can barely contain their excitement. Who’d have thought box files and filing cabinets could be so entertaining?
The highlight is an adventure into an expansive safe where the things that are really valuable are stored. The focus moves from fiscal calamity to environmental disaster. Plastic, pesticides, mining and deforestation are all tackled in various compartments. The theatre company are clearly keen to instruct their young audience to save water and bees. It’s hard to tell how much the kids are taking in – it’s easy to be distracted by the brilliant set and lighting.
The finale is a magical wishing well that reacts differently to each penny thrown in. Everyone’s dreams are carefully filed away by the Regulator (a handsome puppet with an expanding file chest) in his room of wishes. The adults tall enough to see into all of the wish jars are able to read some young hopes that are pretty heart breaking. Disappointingly this isn’t a show that’s as good for adults as it is for little ones – don’t go if you haven’t got one in tow. But if you do, this inventive and absorbing promenade piece is worth a look.
Bank On It is part of the Beyond Barbican series. Tickets are £12 and can be bought via the Barbican box office but the venue is The Rose Lipman Building, 43 De Beauvoir Rd, London, N1 5SQ until 14 July. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.