Howard Davies on watching himself in 'The Power of Yes'

Our diarist features prominently in David Hare's new play - so we asked him what he thought of it.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This weekend MT spent an interesting afternoon at London's National Theatre, watching 'The Power of Yes', David Hare’s new play about the financial crisis. It features an actor playing Hare in discussion with some of the people involved in the crash, either as participants, regulators or observers. Some insisted on anonymity; those who didn’t include George Soros, Sir Ronald Cohen, Adair Turner and MT’s very own diarist Sir Howard Davies, the former FSA boss who’s now director of the LSE. So we couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask him how he enjoyed the experience of seeing himself portrayed on stage…

"If you agree to be interviewed on the record, on what can hardly be described as a good news story, then you have to take what comes. Some of the things I said may now seem, up in lights, marginally less witty and pertinent than they seemed to be at the time. But, even so, I preferred to be identified, than to be the ‘junior Bank of England official’ – actually rather a senior one – who says disobliging things about the Governor, and about the FSA, behind a cloak of anonymity.

"As all the words are those of the cast of real characters, the exercise stands or falls by the quality of what they have to say. And that is, frankly, uneven. Predictably, most of the principals declined to talk, on the ‘never apologise, never explain’ principle. To fill the gaps, there is a banal city head-hunter, a somewhat nostalgic corporate lawyer and a harrumphing captain of industry (the last one pompous enough to decline to be named).

"They add far less to the story than do George Soros or Ronnie Cohen. Soros is clearly the star of the show, and probably deserves to be, given the intellectual energy (and indeed the money) he is investing in trying to construct an alternative theory of capital markets to rival the one whose weaknesses have been so painfully exposed in the past two years.

"Does it all ring true? Well, on balance, I should say it does. There are simplifications – how could there not have been? At the end, Everyman remains somewhat perplexed about how it all went so terribly wrong. There are some not very penetrable observations about the motivation being ‘the thing itself’ and not just the money. But, overall, this is theatre doing what it should. It is a traumatic story and a dramatic evening in the theatre. Nick Hytner’s gamble has paid off better than most of the financial bets that the play describes. I expect the tickets to be so sought after that a futures and options market in them will develop in the trading rooms of Canary Wharf.

"And yet I cannot help recording one serious complaint. Jonathan Coy (who plays me) really needs to join my gym. My lean and hungry lines are far too well padded on the Lyttelton stage."


This is an extract from Howard’s Diary piece in the November issue of MT, which is out on the 3rd November.


In today's bulletin:

Brown prepares £16bn state fire sale
ITV chaos continues as Bishop turns down chairman role
Ethical banking pays big dividends for the Co-op
Howard Davies on watching himself in 'The Power of Yes'
MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Reducing fraud losses in the retail sector

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