Tell-all play blows the whistle on the moral vacuum of high finance

Wendy Johnson 9 July 2020
The cast of Long Term Greedy Chinese Walls

The cast of Long Term Greedy Chinese Walls, directed by Barb Barnett. Photos: Canberra Theatre Centre.

When an anonymous playwright who has worked with one of the world’s biggest and most powerful investment banks for half a decade decides to create a ‘tell-all’ comedy play blowing the whistle on corporate corruption, it’s worth paying attention.

But you won’t have to venture out to see a first act reading of Long Term Greedy Chinese Walls by ‘Smith Dick’, it’s being released as part of Canberra Theatre’s digital series and you can watch it in your own home.

The play’s script is based on a trove of hundreds of hours of secretly recorded audio, tonnes of pages of meeting transcripts and annotated documents that Smith gathered over five years.

His extensive “immersive research stage” took him deeper and deeper into the complex financial world where many financiers have access to billions of dollars and minimal ethics or respect for the law. In theory, this shouldn’t be funny, but Long Term Greedy Chinese Walls gets audience buckled over in fits of laughter.

After five years of research and writing, Smith was ready. He packaged two flash drives of his research material and the playscript and sent the lot to Canberra playwright David Finnigan who says the script is the “most extraordinary piece” he has read in many years.

David describes the irresistible Long Term Greedy Chinese Walls as “the corporate capture of a reality show billionaire’s presidential administration by the finance sector, the journey to and fallout from the reality show billionaire’s signature tax cut, and drastic changes to the American tax code (written by the investment bank’s former COO)”.

The playscript is hugely ambitious and intriguing – part investigative journalism, part black comedy and part surreal character drama – and David was instrumental in bringing it to the Canberra Theatre.

Smith secretly documented the countless hours of sensitive internal strategy meetings, seminars and conferences he was exposed to while working in the powerful financial world, becoming more and more disturbed by what he witnessed at all levels.

At times there would be guards standing outside the rooms where financiers gathered to talk secret business. Smith also remembers how young and naive finance graduates were inducted into the company, quickly becoming so isolated from the real world they could not comprehend any consequences to their modus operandi.

To protect the playwright’s anonymity, Region Media interviewed Smith by email.

“I kept an audio journal of my personal feelings nearly every day, mostly of me babbling nonsense about financial algorithms into my phone for half a decade.”

Smith says one of the most hilarious moments in Long Term Greedy Chinese Walls is when the character ‘Nameless’ realises all his swipe dating apps are owned by the same parent company.

“Swipe dating in and of itself is a hilarious nightmare where sometimes romance gets reduced to a desperate transactional networking session for very lonely people,” writes Smith by email.

“There is this illusion of choice – there are so many different dating apps with so many singles! But it’s a false choice if all the apps are owned by one corporation.”

Another laugh-until-you-cry moment is when Nameless speaks to a caterer who reveals the corporate kitchen has strict calorie counters for Chief Executive Officers because if a CEO has a heart attack it could sink their stock price.

“Maybe I have a bleak sense of humour, but I think that’s hysterical,” Smith emails.

The playwright was driven to write Long Term Greedy Chinese Walls believing if he did nothing the financiers of the world will destroy the planet for profit, replace jobs with Artificial Intelligence, and use the tax system as a personal slush fund while people go hungry and lose their homes.

“This is my only recourse before the machines take full control,” Smith emails.

Does Smith fear he may be uncovered one day?

“Oh gosh. Yeah. Definitely. But here’s the thing: if these financiers were actually as smart as they think they are, they should have caught me a long time ago. It shouldn’t have been this easy to turn it all into a play … if their system is as secure as they claim it is, how have I gotten this far?”

Before losing too much sleep over being caught, Smith makes it clear that the play is entirely fictional.

“Can you imagine the hubris of having trillions of dollars and high-level connections in government and being afraid of fiction by an unknown playwright?” says Smith signing off.

Canberra Theatre Centre’s digital season features local music, play readings, improvised performance and more. Check out this week’s schedule or catch up on previous episodes at the Canberra Theatre Centre.


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