Though people like to say money is the root of all evil, you won’t find many who will refuse it to save their souls.
Loretta and Frances, two community care workers in Belfast, are paid by the state to take care of the old and infirm. Though their wages are low and the work is draining, they are the only two who stand between Davy, an old-age pensioner, and isolation. After they wipe his bum and put his meals-on-wheels in front of him, Loretta gets his weekly pension from the ATM, and Frances places his weekly five pound bet on the ponies.
The play opens with Loretta’s confession. If she hadn’t had to run after her son, if it hadn’t been raining, if she’d only met Frances at the top of Davy’s street as usual, things might not have turned out so badly. Her confession (and the confession that marks the end of the play) is a plea for absolution. She wants to send her daughter to Euro-Disney on a class trip, but since the recession, her bricklayer husband has been out of work. Frances wants to join her work mate on a hen-party vacation to Barcelona, but who can afford that? A little extra money would go a long way to alleviate the ache of their existence as they labor thanklessly to brighten Davy’s twilight years.
The problem is (funny as it may seem), money doesn’t stink. If it did, you might get fair warning what a danger it is to your mortal soul. Frances, a little more worldly-wise than Loretta, knows that money doesn’t care who it belongs to, or how it’s spent. Money feels just as comfortable in the hands of a sociopathic drug lord as it does in the tender palm of an octogenarian nun. It also has the amazing ability to transform the people it touches. Not only does it not care where you came from, it also has the power to make where you came from irrelevant. If a gutter whore’s bastard son, who never told the truth a day in his life and whose tastes would nauseate the cast of Jersey Shore, has an enormous fortune, he is just as respectable and honored as a senator or captain of industry. If you want proof, just look at our senators and captains of industry.
Because money has this power people will do anything for it. They will throw away their faith in God and bow down before the Golden Calf of Capital. When Frances and Loretta realize that Davy is dead — that his pension money will sit in the bank untouched and his last winning bet (five hundred pounds) will go unclaimed, they wrestle with the moral implications of despoiling — and disrespecting — a man in death whom they cared for in life.
Marie Jones, who is both writer and director of this production at 59E59 Theatres, does a wonderful job of bringing out the humor in the bleakness of contemporary working class life in Ireland. Loretta and Frances are good, if simple, people. They don’t have the guile to be “makers” in the new world order. The temptation that money offers, to be better than you are, almost makes them betray their core conviction that each human life is uniquely valuable. When they find Davy’s box of treasures beneath his bed — his autographed picture of Frank Sinatra and his last will and testament — they are faced with a choice between the temptations of money and the freedom of integrity.
One of the effects of the now four-year-old world financial crisis has been to degrade Europeans in Ireland and other small EU states with indebtedness and imposed austerity that forces them to make choices between their humanity and necessity. Ms Jones’s play is both a funny record of what two women would do for just a little extra scratch and a scathing condemnation of a world where a person’s value is the sum of their assets.