UH Production of 'Serious Money' Revisits Britain's Financial Crisis of 1980s

Greed, excess and corporate recklessness were the order of the day in 1980s London. Soon, audiences will have an opportunity to revisit Thatcher-era England to meet shady traders and back alley investors, who helped plunge the country into a financial crisis.

The University of Houston’s School of Theatre & Dance is presenting Caryl Churchill’s “Serious Money.” Directed by visiting artist Christopher Owens, the play runs Sept. 28 – Oct. 7 in UH’s Jose Quintero Theatre (in the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts – Entrance 16 off Cullen Boulevard).

Show times are as follows:

  • 8 p.m., Sept. 28 – 29 and Oct. 4 – 6
  • 2 p.m., Sept. 30 and Oct. 7

Tickets are $20; $15 for UH faculty, staff and alumni; and $10 for seniors and students. They can be purchased at the Wortham box office or by calling 713-743-2929. For more details, visit the School of Theatre & Dance’s website.

“Serious Money” introduces audiences to high rolling brother and sister traders Jake and Scilla Todd. Both are are living the good life until Jake winds up dead following some back alley trades. As Scilla investigates her brother’s demise, corporate raiders Zackerman and Corman prepare to swoop down on aging company Albion…with or without the help of a pair of female business vultures.

“The play premiered in 1987, but it still feels very topical,” Owens said. “There’s talk of insider trading and banks making loans that have very little collateral behind them. Even though the play was written more than 20 years ago, it’s dealing with things that are still going on today.”

Churchill composed the dialogue in rhyming couplets, which Owens said helps make the production seem larger than life at times.

“It adds an almost Shakespearean size to the play,” he said. “Audiences are aware that rhyming verse takes place within a heightened world and is not an everyday occurrence. The rhymes lend a size to the characters who are high-powered professionals making million-dollar transactions. It also adds to the sense that they themselves are performers.”

The cast includes 23 actors who perform 51 characters and navigate a set filled with projections of scrolling market reports and tangled wires that connect these traders to investors and markets.

Churchill’s play debuted in 1987 at the Royal Court Theatre in London and starred Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina. That year, it earned a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play.

Director Owens is the producing artistic director of the noted Virginia Shakespeare Festival in Williamsburg, Va. “Serious Money” is among the more than 150 plays he has directed nationwide including productions of “King Lear,” “Measure for Measure,” “Amadeus”, “Hamlet,” the regional premiere of “Oleanna” and the national tour of “The Fourposter” starring the late Ron Pallilo.  

 The UH School of Theatre and Dance produces professional plays, dance concerts, studio productions, a new play festival and school shows through the Theatre for Young Audiences program. The school performs in the Wortham Theatre and the Quintero Theatre. The Houston Shakespeare Festival is a professional project of the school, which is produced each summer at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor’s and master's degrees in theater and teacher certifications in dance and theatre. Its graduate program consists of a master of arts in theatre and master of fine arts in theatre with specializations in acting, directing and design. Faculty includes Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Edward Albee, Tony Award-winning playwright Mark Medoff, Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow and Tony-nominated designer Kevin Rigdon. Among the greats who have taught at the school in previous years are Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.