Melbourne company The Bloomshed’s The Market is a Wind-Up Toy opens on a warped TED talk, in which Ikea-hired speakers expound on the virtues of capitalism as if the topic is their favoured form of recreational drug use.
Unable to do anything in moderation, the group quickly find itself with a market destroyed by overuse. It’s up to intern Arvid Flatpack to enter the depths of hell and get the Devil to set up the free market all over again.
The production sits uneasily between satire and polemic, with a narrative struggling through the middle as writers James Jackson and Lindsay Templeton push their diatribes and anti-capitalist sentiments.
Their discourse made me feel like I was back in a tute listening to a fellow undergrad showing off their academic chops.
For some, The Market is a Wind-Up Toy will be an educational and insightful experience. For others, it will feel like watching performers preach to the choir while reciting arguments found in their arts degree reader. Many of the script’s ideas are presented in a way that favours prior learning of the topic.
Having performers rotate in the role of Arvid weakens the audience’s relationship to the protagonist somewhat, making it hard to care about whether the hero succeeds or not. The last scene raises an entirely new theme that is poignant enough to be fleshed out but it’s too late for that.
Nevertheless, Jackson and Templeton’s bold vision – to make academic discourse on the issues of capitalism entertaining – succeeds.
The cast brings unrelenting physicality and a dazzling level of energy to the stage and each performer is given a moment to shine, with Emily O’Connor as Christopher Columbus and Imogen Walsh as a posh Thatcherite particularly memorable.
Justin Gardam’s sound design is spectacular, tying the production together and maintaining a general sense of panic and chaos throughout.
The costumes perfectly encapsulate a sterile, efficient, dystopian capitalist future.
Tackling meaty topics, The Market is a Wind Up toy is an unapologetically raucous night spent skewering the economic status quo.