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Greg Nottrot is a brilliant seller of dreams in Good Gold Money.

In Anton Chekhov's legendary play 'Seagull' (1896), the young, ambitious playwright Konstantin shoots a seagull. It is a symbolic act, giving 'wings' to his desperate love for the young actress Nina. On 29 June 2023, the no longer very young (40) actor, writer and storyteller Greg Nottrot stops every now and then to look at a seagull flying overhead. Because his play Good Gold Money is actually his modern take on Chekhov's classic.

Just don't expect Russian characters and wistfully bubbling samovars here on Utrecht's Berlin Square, because Nottrot has long been working on other things than adapting classics. Followers of his work at The Utility could already notice this with his 2016 version of The Cherry Garden, also by Chekhov. Back then, the title gave rise to an inimitably meandering story about a family cottage in Greece. Now that seagull is the occasion for a gathering somewhere between storytelling theatre, stand-up philosophy and a veritable sales demonstration that used to make your grandmother return from a cheap bus trip with an overpriced subscription to nylon rheumatic socks.

Second-hand car

In 2016 I wrote about Greg's Cherry Garden: "Because that, then, is what the eternally engaging playwright does manage: he can make you think that an old barn is actually a villa, or a run-down Trabant merely a Ferrari with an image problem. But Greg Nottrot, then, is no dodgy estate agent or typical used-car salesman. His talent applies to theatre, and his knowledge that the audience can best finish his story themselves."

in 2023, I can cheerfully add quite a bit. Because Good Gold Money is, as Nottrot himself puts it right at the beginning, not theatre. He has gathered us as an audience because he wants our money. And not a few euros, but thousands. And for what? For the realisation of a dream, a mirage that, in turn, is quite similar to the experimental set that Chekhov has the celestial stormtrooper Kostya design in the play Seagull.

Group Psychology

Giving money without demanding a tangible quid pro quo in return: that is almost impossible for us. Yet Nottrot has already raised 40,000 euros from the audience at the first series of performances on Terschelling. It is up to the Utrecht audience to add another 210,000 euros in 31 performances, because for his dream, a floating 'dome'  in which politicians, scientists and artists must work together with spectators to invent a new world, he needs €250,000.

Thanks to a brilliant combination of storytelling talent, group psychology and fun, I now know that Nottrot is going to succeed in his mission. He knows how to make us think well about the absurd value we attach to money, and how difficult it is to assign that value to intangible things too, like theatre, an idea, or a piece on a website. But people turn out to be disinterested in giving anyway, as long as they don't live above the limit of 'unhealthy wealth', because then, I have learned, everything turns around.

No price

Nottrot challenges the more-than-average affluent audience, tempting even a few who consider themselves rich enough to go further than they normally would. It's circus, it's art, it's psychology and persuasion. But that is precisely what we love about this rather brilliant piece of introspection theatre that The Utility offers us.

I also transferred money, even though I need it myself at least as much as Nottrot needs it for his dream. Giving money away seems unwise if you want to get rich, I now know from a colleague who raised a tonne by paying better attention. But that tenner I transferred made me feel really good. And so there is no price to put on that.

Seen: Good Gold Money by The Utility, Utrecht premiere on 29 June at Het Berlijnplein in Leidsche Rijn. Still there until 22 July.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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