Theatre review: Adam Smith, le Grand Tour
Edinburgh Fringe Scotsman review: Adam Smith, le Grand Tour at L’Institut Francais d’Écosse (Venue 134), reviewed by Matt Trueman
Economist Vanessa Oltra is on a mission: she’s out to restore the reputation of Adam Smith, the man shorthand has dubbed the “founding father of political economy”.
Smith and his The Wealth of Nations have taken a beating post-crash. His mantra – that a free-market society runs and sustains itself on self-interest – has come up against runaway greed, as bankers risk our economy for their bonuses. Without Smith’s liberalism, his detractors say, we’d have been alright.
Not so, says Oltra: Smith has been wilfully misrepresented. His phrase “the invisible hand” – a reference to the complexity of large-scale markets and irrational human behaviour – has been misunderstood. He predicted all this, but, just as his grave has been sealed off, so too have his ideas been fixed in concrete interpretations.
Oltra and Frédéric Kneip’s super-smart multimedia performance – one that occasionally assumes economic proficiency – is a mix of lecture, séance and video documentary.
There’s a tight sense of journey to their quest and it’s canny to make the Royal Mile statue – erected in the year of the crash – a pivotal image. At his bronze feet, interviewees can name him, but they can’t explain him. It’s a personal quest, and as such it succeeds, but Adam Smith, le Grand Tour looks back and we really need to look forward.
MORE INFO: Adam Smith, Le Grand Tour is at the French Institute
Originally published in The Scotsman