Mark Ludmon reviews Frankie Foxstone aka The Profit: Walking Tour which is being presented as part of this year's Vault Festival.
Frankie Foxstone aka The Profit: Walking Tour
Vault Festival, London
Vault Festival Website
Frankie Foxstone, self-styled property developer, entrepreneur and financial guru, has a challenge on her hands. Taking us on a tour through the tunnels beneath Waterloo station, she is sharing with us her money-making vision for transforming the surrounding area into a sprawl of luxury mixed-use developments. But it’s the last Friday of the month and a noisy anti-capitalist protest has descended on the South Bank on their bikes, drowning out her words with shouts and music. This is the joy, and risks, of live theatre in public spaces. None of this is planned – in fact, it’s “unprecedented”, according to Frankie – but it adds a suitably disruptive dimension to Amy Gwilliam’s accomplished performance as Frankie Foxstone aka The Profit.
After successfully expounding on plans to level and rebuild parts of Edinburgh during last year’s Fringe festival, Gwilliam has adapted her satirical show for the graffiti-covered tunnels around the main venues of London’s Vault Festival. Dressed stylishly all in black with almost impractically high heels and a chunky gold necklace, Frankie exudes confidence and success, encouraging us to back her proposals to build “a whole new world” in Waterloo. Her vision is especially relevant to this part of London which is ripe for development but predominantly made up of social housing with only patches of gentrification. Citing the Hindu god Shiva, she insists you have to destroy before you create so it’s worth expelling local people if it will inject a trillion pounds into the economy. For Frankie, a free society means we’re all “free to make as much money as we like”. At the same time, she takes us through her five-step pathway to financial success, implying she believes she is all about tapping into the potential of people and not just places.
There are hints of Frankie’s backstory, not least a troubling relationship with Rupert, the chief executive of Southwark Council. She quotes Shelley and new-age philosophy but how much does she understand them? These tantalising snippets point to an interesting character but they are taken no further. Despite her charm, Frankie’s lack of empathy for people of low net worth is explicit as she admits to doing deals to ensure there will be no affordable housing, and this is cleverly reflected in her attempts to categorise her audience according to her neoliberal values.
While it may not be as subversive and disruptive as it could be, this is a fun, entertaining and sometimes delightfully silly show, with an engaging, appealing performance by Gwilliam who stays in character whatever the surroundings throw at her. With her quick-witted interaction, Frankie has the audience in the palms of her hands – despite being a ruthless, money-oriented capitalist destroyer. But you are left wondering who is this monster and why is she so likeable.
Running at Vault Festival in London to 2 February 2020.