Is there a difference between money and currency?
The Brexit campaign constantly tells us that it costs about £25 million pounds a day to belong to the EU and, as an actor, I think of that money in terms of the loose change and crumpled five pound notes in my denim pockets but perhaps there are forms of currency which are beyond me.
Some years ago, I worked on a Royal Shakespeare Company tour visiting small British communities, towns and villages, of which the last port of call was, paradoxically, Tokyo, Japan; an attractive addition to an otherwise regular UK touring schedule, and indeed the reason why such adventure seeking actors as myself were keen to accept the engagement.
However, the cherry on the cake proved elusive; producers prevaricated; Tokyo was ‘off’ or ‘back on again’ at various stages of the tour while our despair and elation fluctuated accordingly but, finally, a decision was made that Tokyo was definite and a company meeting was called to explain the details.
We were to enjoy three weeks at Tokyo’s Globe theatre in Shinjuku and would be staying in a five star luxury skyscraper hotel whose rooms, in 1991, cost upwards of one hundred pounds a night.
At the mention of this, one actor - let’s call him Andrew - stood up and declared his position. He loathed all capitalist luxury and refused to be shoe-horned into the product of a system which he had fought against all his life. He would rather have the money, please, and fiind his own modest accommodation such as, perhaps, everyday Japanese family lodgings.
The room fell silent. Andrew repeated his impassioned request. Could it be arranged, please, that he could paid the cost of the hotel room, or even a half, or even a third of such an obscene amount of money and find his own accommodation.
The company manager was speechless. Andrew made a further plea, his voice rising. The elephant in the room was asking for buns. A few of us offered Andrew our timid support which only thickened the silence, like so much cornflour. As work-a-day actors we knew only one form of currency; the loose change and crumpled notes in our pockets.
Poor Andrew, it seemed, had no option but to stay, much against his will, in the majestic skyscraper from which he pocketed as many sugars, coffee sachets, tea bags, mini-milks, plastic shampoo tubes, shower caps and disposable slippers as he possibly could.
These were the years of the Yuppie. I talked with Andrew - in Tokyo - of the compromising niceties concerning the fashionable currency of credit and debt, of the charge card, of corporate favour or ‘freebie’. Andrew said; ‘Of course I know about all that grace and favour finance; but what does it make of the likes of me? How can I ever be a part of that kind of currency? If I’m sent a bill, I have to pay it. Imagine me saying to the plumber or the builders, ‘Never mind about the money; why don’t I swing you a complimentary ticket for The Taming of The Shrew instead.’
My question is; in what form of currency is that £25 million pounds paid? Because if it’s in ‘non-money’, we are all Andrew, pathetically pleading a case for the NHS.
©David Shaw-Parker 2016