Skip to content

The Speculator

Paris in the 1720’s. The Banker John Law, a Scot from Edinburgh, is the richest and most powerful man in Europe. His issuing of shares backed by the value of the new French lands in America has sparked a financial boom. Fortunes are being made every day. Pierre Marivaux is playing games with love and chance, having an affair with his leading lady. A young Scottish nobleman, Lord Islay of Islay, is chasing the love of an ex nun turned barmaid. And then John Law’s financial bubble bursts.

Islay: I’ve never seen a play.

Marivaux: Never?

Islay: It’s a small place I’m Lord of.
Not a lot happening.
You ever written a play about true love?

Marivaux: Yes – well no.

Islay: True love Mister. Love between two people who can’t
exist without each other. Who have a connection. Only
their lives, the city they live in, the whole wide world is
so fucked up the whole thing’s being torn apart. That’s
the only thing worth writing about to my way of thinking.
I would see that play. Fuck yes. See if it told me something.

Marivaux: What would you want it to tell you?

Islay: Tell me what the fuck to do.
My girl. Adelaide. She wants to go to America.
I’ve got to get her there.
Because we can’t be together in any other place.
I’m a lord and she’s an ex nun.

The Speculator was inspired by reading James Buchan’s masterful account of the history of money ‘Frozen Desire.’ In it he introduced me to the incredible figure of John Law who somehow seems to be forgotten in Scottish history. Looking back on it – the play seems to explore and pre-empt the dot.com bubble which happened the year after the play was staged at the Edinburgh Festival. It’s only ever been performed four times in Britain. The first four scenes of this play are not quite right. They are very difficult to stage and I think that has hampered its chances of subsequent production. I sometimes think I’ll go back and re-write but it’s the flaws that give a play it’s character so perhaps it will remain as it is.

Title: The Speculator
Premier Place and Date: The Grec Festival Barcelona 1999/ The Edinburgh
International Festival 1999
Director and Producing Company: Philip Howard, The Traverse Theatre
Publication Details: Methuen “The Speculator/The Meeting” edited by John London ISBN 0413743101
Translation Details: Catalan
Foreign Performances: The Speculator premiered at the Grec Festival in Barcelona
Awards, Prizes: None
Characters: 10 (Male – 6 Female – 4)