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You Will Be Rare
Published on Saturday, 20 August 2011

2 stars

Zoo (venue website)
5-29 Aug, 8:10pm-9:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

Why is gold so valuable?  Solely because it is rare.  In this show-crossed-with-a-lecture, which promises much but delivers far less, Jamie Moakes attempts to pull the same trick on an utterly incongruous object – plastic models of Ram-Man, a character from the He-Man children’s series of the 1980s.  By buying up the limited stocks of this now hard-to-obtain toy, he hopes to create demand and, in doing so, drive up its value.  But not, you understand, for profit – “I’m an artist, not an economist,” is Moakes’s recurring refrain.

But that’s a shame, because an economist would have a lot to add to this show.  An economist might mention the billionaire Hunt brothers, who tried to corner the market in silver in the late 1970’s – but bankrupted only themselves.  An economist might talk about the bizarre share bubble which, in 2008, briefly made Volkswagen the most valuable company in the world.  Or more straightforwardly, when Moakes explains that excessive bidding on eBay affected the prices of Ram-Man dolls, an economist might go into exactly what happened… and why.

But Moakes didn’t talk about any of that.  For him, you sense it’s really all about the Ram-Man; and there was, to be fair, a great deal that’s sweet and sensitive about his obvious affection for this little plastic figure, an emblem of a remembered happy childhood.  As he cradled it, talked to it, and ran enthusiastically through a list of its most important features, my own inner child was smiling soppily too.  And when (horrors!) he auctioned one of his prized collection at the end, I felt a little stab of pain.

But – call me old-fashioned – I don’t think it’s enough to come to Edinburgh with an interesting thought and a few PowerPoint slides, however well-drawn those slides might be.  What’s missing from this show is a coherent, properly-developed theme; it sets out to parody the global markets, yet spends most of its time discussing Charles Bronson or tallying the characters in a television show.  And Moakes needs to rehearse a bit more – or just use notes, that would be fine – so that his tech guy doesn’t have to keep intervening when he misses out bits of the plot.

Moakes comes across as an enormously likeable man, and if he'd cornered me in the pub to talk about his hobby, I'm sure I'd have come away with a warm heart (and quite possibly a plastic toy).  Indeed, I sensed that those laughing uproariously in the audience – and there were several of them – had been drawn to the show by just such a meeting; it's easy to see how you'd enjoy this enthusiastic ramble if you'd encountered the rambler before.  But as a standalone show, it falls regrettably short.  Ultimately, it's rare but not well-done.

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