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For Love or Money

by on 2 November 2017

Rings of Brass

For Love or Money

by Blake Morrison adapted from Turcaret by Alain René Lesage

Northern Broadsides

at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until 4th November, then on tour until 2nd December

Review by Mark Aspen

Let’s sit down, have a nice chatter-watter, and natter about For Love or Money.   Now here’s a nice tale if you like, a fun-filled farce about folks’ foibles.

©NOBBY CLARK
+44(0)7941-515770
+44(0)20-7274-2105
nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

Halifax has come to Kingston with Northern Broadsides’ tongue in cheek play about a concatenation of conmen, with more fiddles than the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.  The company often works with journalist and author Blake Morrison to adapt plays from the past, ranging from Aristophanes to Kleist, into the Yorkshire vernacular.    This time round the source is Turcaret by Alain René Lesage, which was first performed at the Comédie Française in 1709, and which in turn is based on Tartuffe by Lesage’s muse Molière.  How does the play cope with its 220 year transplant from Paris to a Yorkshire mill town in the late 1920s ?   Surprisingly well, for human vices like lust and greed, which are the peccadilloes that form the driving force of For Love or Money, are real hardy perennials.

The Great War took the colonel who lived in the grand mansion on the outskirts of the Yorkshire town.  Ten years since, he never returned from the front, and his young and attractive widow Rose is finding it hard to cope financially.   The furniture has been sold, as have the oil paintings, witness the shadows of the frames on the William Morris wallpaper (one of many inspired touches by designer Jessica Worrall, which include some colourful pastiches of period dress by Lucy Archbould).

©NOBBY CLARK
+44(0)7941-515770
+44(0)20-7274-2105
nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

The scene is set at the opening with Rose in conversation with Marlene, her housekeeper and one remaining servant.  The bluff Marlene, robustly played by Jacqueline Naylor, speaks in broad Yorkshire vernacular, which the opening night audience at Kingston found almost impenetrable, but it mattered not, as her whiplash tongue said it all.  Marlene is warning Rose about the predations of some of the local men, whose intentions may not be honourable.  For her pains Marlene is given the sack, but Rose loses her rough-edged guardian.  She doesn’t know that her husband, the late colonel, sent Marlene a letter to ask the she look after Rose as he believed her to be very vulnerable.  Well, perhaps she is, but perhaps she isn’t.

 

Rose is wooed by two suitors, the well-heeled banker Algy Fuller, and the louche gigolo Arthur.  However, Arthur is a con-man and is fleecing Rose, but Rose is taking Algy for all she can, while Algy is embezzling from his bank, and a great merry-go-round of greed tootles its merry way around the story.

©NOBBY CLARK
+44(0)7941-515770
+44(0)20-7274-2105
nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

The guileful but gorgeous Rose is played by the Sarah-Jane Potts who skilfully balances the demure innocent-abroad against the shrewd schemer in Rose’s psyche, coy one moment pert the next.  She is the flapper par excellence, fringed hair, satin dress the colour of, well, a peach.  For Rose is the focus of the action, the honeypot cum money-pot to which the men are drawn, some for the honey, some for the money.   Arthur is after both; the money to feed his gambling addiction, the honey to feed his voracious sexual appetite.  Neither his promiscuity nor his ego know any bounds.  He describes his liaison in a back alley with an older woman as “performing an act of mercy”.   Jos Vantyler has the part of Arthur to a tee, oozing debauchery from his coiffured hair to his co-respondent’s shoes; even his movements are dissolute.  Now, Algy has plenty of money of his own, or is it his own?  For Algy runs so much of a double life that it probably counts as a triple life.  Suited and booted, smiling and moustache twirling, Algy bursts onto the scene adamant to achieve his goal of seducing Rose.  His armoury includes gifts of jewellery (fraudulently acquired), verses proclaiming his love (witless doggerel) and promises to build a magnificent new house for her with orangery and haha (castles in Spain).  Barrie Rutter portrays Algy as an effusive convivial man, opulent and expansive, comfortably rotund and very self-satisfied.  He his lost his wife to the ‘flu epidemic, or was it the flew epidemic?  Algy is wary in matters of business, particularly dodgy-business, but totally blind in his enthrallment by the alluring Rose.

©NOBBY CLARK
+44(0)7941-515770
+44(0)20-7274-2105
nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

Barrie Rutter is also the Founder and the prime mover of Northern Broadsides.  Describing himself as a “theatrical animal”, he has grown the company to world-wide recognition, with its mission to promote the richness of the dialects of the North of England.  Rutter has himself taking on the direction of For Love or Money, and has run with the vivacious dialogue and the sinewy humour, the emotional slapstick that is the engine of this play.   At some points the play has a late music-hall feel, such as at the opening of the second half and the pre-curtain call which involve quite elaborate song-and-dance routines: much credit is due to Beverley Norris-Edmunds’ choreography with Conrad Nelson’s music.   There is a bit of the shoulders back “I say, I say, I say” to the setting up of gags.  The play is certainly stylised with every character having a distinct but exaggerated style of moving, and all the first entrances are down-stage right into a spot, with an unspoken “Dah! Dah!”.  The effect of this somehow smacked in my mind of a comic strip unfolding across the stage, with the “Umphs” and “Ouchs” and “Ooos” imagined in the air.  It is a distinctive style that gives the piece so much vibrancy.

Much of the comic strip reference comes from Jordan Metcalfe as Jack, with his quiff a Tin-Tin overdosed on E-numbers.  With a Jack-the-lad twinkle in his eye, he energises his part to the brim.  Jack is described as an odd job man, and they certainly are odd jobs.  He is the general run-around for Arthur, doing all his dirty work.  Then he takes up the same services for Rose, and then for Algy, but concurrently.  Here is a sharp sharper who knows how to play all ends against the middle.

Jack’s girlfriend is Lisa, who is a young woman with a strapping way with words and who knows how to look after herself.  She has worked as a char and as a street-walker, hence Jack’s honest introduction of her as “the best scrubber in town”.  Jack insinuates her into Rose’s household, putting another tangle in the thread of farce.  Kat Rose-Martin makes a gamine Lisa, pouting her scarlet lipstick.  She plays the role with a warmth that makes one disregard her felonies as mere naughtiness.  The audience though is itself seduced by Jack and Lisa, maybe because everyone in this play is an anti-hero, so we root for the best of a bad bunch in these characters.  And we know that they will be the ones who will win out in the end.

This wild welter of nefarious plans begins to unravel when wronged parties appear.  Martin, a farmer, has been tricked by Algy in his dealings with Algy’s bank, and tricked out of his late mother’s jewellery.  Martin’s addiction is to booze, but he is looking for a wife to change his life.  He also has some wonderful turns of phrase, including a very apt spoonerism: his riposte to Algy’s “I run a tight ship”, as “Yes, a shite tip”.  Jim English delivers these lines for maximum comic impact with spot-on timing, playing Martin as a lanky sot, somewhat simple.  Martin is the susceptible victim at the bottom of this food chain of deception.

©NOBBY CLARK
+44(0)7941-515770
+44(0)20-7274-2105
nobby@nobbyclark.co.uk

Then comes Ruddles (Matthew Booth), Algy’s bank clerk, coerced into getting his hands dirty for Algy, with a list of chickens coming home to roost; and Gwen (Jacqueline Naylor doubling) an “antiques dealer”, who turns out to be Algy’s sister and proceeds to tell more than a few home truths.  A bailiff, Hever, arrives to seize some of Rose’s land, but this is Jack in disguise perpetrating another fraud.  All adds to the general mayhem.

Finally, Teresa, “a visitor” joins in the party.  She comes as Martin’s fiancée, a “classy French” woman of a certain age.  Arthur recognises her as his “act of mercy” but stays mum.  But when Algy appears his recognition of her is … (to avoid a spoiler) … not welcomed.  Sarah Parks is priceless as Teresa, multi-coloured and grotesque, complete with cod French, she grabs the stage by the throat.  A deep Fanny Cradock contralto enhances the far from understated picture of the wronged woman.  Algy is in, as Teresa puts it, the merde.

For Love or Money makes an hilarious evening’s entertainment, but underneath it is a salutary allegory to human greed.  Everyone exploits everyone in a riotous Ring a Ring o’ Roses; everyone abuses everyone in a way that would make Arthur Schnitzler blush: everyone milks everyone else, but the most loveable scoundrels run off with the cream.

Oh, a “chatter-watter” is a cup of tea, so we learn proper Yorkshire too.

Mark Aspen

November 2017

 

Photography by Nobby Clark

 

From → Drama, Reviews

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