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Blue Touch Paper presents Other People’s Money – Review

Blue Touch Paper Productions Ltd presents Other People's Money Directed by Katharine Farmer Lin Blakley as Bea, Michael Brandon as Jorgy, Amy Burke as Kate and Rob Locke as Lawrence Garfinkle (standing holding mic)
Blue Touch Paper Productions Ltd presents Other People’s Money Directed by Katharine Farmer
Lin Blakley as Bea, Michael Brandon as Jorgy, Amy Burke as Kate and Rob Locke as Lawrence Garfinkle (standing holding mic)

It’s an intriguing choice of play to revive thirty years after its first production, Off-Broadway. Other People’s Money is distinctly 1980s – there were telephones but there were fixed lines, and the firm run by Andrew Jorgenson (Michael Brandon), the New England Wire & Cable Company, based in Rhode Island, finds itself under threat by a corporate raider, Lawrence Garfinkle (Rob Locke).

Garfinkle doesn’t have a problem with others calling him ‘Larry the Liquidator’; as far as he’s concerned, there are technological advances and changes afoot, and the product range offered by the company is becoming obsolete, so it is time to quit while they are still ahead.

Now I’ve heard Rhode Island accents, and there aren’t Rhode Island accents in this production – this is, fundamentally, a negligible point, but I thought I’d deal with it quickly. I also wonder if Kate Sullivan (Amy Burke) would really have to drop everything as a corporate lawyer in New York City and physically get over to Rhode Island if the play were set in the digital era. But Kate liaises with Garfinkle as well as with Jorgenson, getting frustrated with the separate and disparate obstinacy on both sides, and all these face-to-face meetings make for good theatre, as well as lightning speed scene changes (for which Sam Waddington’s lighting design should also take some credit), with Jorgenson’s office at one end of the performance space and Garfinkle’s at the other.

The other on-stage characters are Bea Sullivan (Lin Blakley), Jorgenson’s wife – her first husband, Kate’s late father, was the founder of the wire and cable firm – and William Coles (Mark Rose), the president of the company, with ‘Jorgy’, as he is known to everyone in the firm, is the chief executive, and has been for 37 years. The occasional press night jitters got into the dialogue, and no doubt these will be smoothed over as the run progresses. It remains engaging despite a large amount of technical detail and some business jargon, especially with regard to the various tactics and counter-tactics that each side considers, because there’s a lot more at stake than just the assets and liabilities of a company.

Listening to all of it, though, this is the sort of argument that has been explored on stage before, in a situation where the livelihoods of a large workforce are at stake. The most memorable recent example lies the musical Kinky Boots, where a factory is saved from closure through what is essentially a programme of modernisation. Things turn out rather differently in Other People’s Money, at least partly because of the chief executive’s risk-aversive outlook. Jerry Sterner’s script is observant and witty, with most punchlines gifted to Garfinkle, whose facial expressions ‘speak’ as much as his mouth does.

I suppose there will be some disappointment from a feminist perspective – Kate negotiates a deal with Garfinkle but perhaps the only reason Garfinkle is talking to her at all is because he thinks he may be able to get some bedroom activity, to the point where he eventually openly suggests it as a way to break a deadlock. The production, overall, is briskly-paced, as it should be – after all, in business, time is money. The plot, these days, has practically zero shock factor, given the corporate behaviours that have been exposed since the play was written. One could even imagine Garfinkle’s eventual downfall in the #MeToo movement. Either way, there’s some laugh-out-loud humour and reasonably well-developed characters in this fascinating and thoughtful production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Wire and Cable Company of New England is a sleepy family-run business – that is until Larry-the-Liquidator threatens to bring a little corporate pillage to the village.

With a jam-today approach to both doughnuts and investments, Larry is accustomed to grabbing life by the assets. But CEO Jorgy has a different approach. Will his small town ideas stack up against booming Wall Street?

In this darkly funny 80’s play, it all comes down to whether ‘values’ have their price.

Creative Team
Director – Katharine Farmer
Producer – Paul O’Leary for OPM Productions Limited
Set and Costume Designer – Emily Leonard
Sound Designer – John Leonard
Lighting Designer – Sam Waddington
Costume Supervisor – Abigail Caywood
Casting Director – Kate Plantin CDG

Cast
Michael Brandon, Lin Blakley, Amy Burke, Rob Locke and Mark Rose

Blue Touch Paper presents
Other People’s Money
by Jerry Sterner
17 APR – 11 MAY 2019
https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

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