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Review of For Love Or Money at the Rose Theatre Kingston

For Love or Money: Jos Vantyler as Arthur and Sarah-Jane Potts as Rose
For Love or Money: Jos Vantyler as Arthur and Sarah-Jane Potts as Rose

The term ‘banker’ has long been a Cockney rhyme for a term that, if taken literally, means one who touches oneself. London’s Yorkshire counterparts have their own choice of words to describe Mr Fuller (Barrie Rutter), a bank branch manager skilled in exploiting his customers. For Love Or Money is entirely set in the 1920s and in the front room of Rose (Sarah-Jane Potts), a widow who has squandered the money her late husband left her by being generous to a fault, as Marlene (Jacqueline Naylor), the housekeeper, is at pains to point out. What was once a well-decorated house has now become rundown and bare: it is clear anything and everything of monetary worth has been sold off or given away.

The ground is therefore fertile for Fuller to impress her with a cheque for a substantial amount, and miscellaneous presents. A generous Yorkshireman who runs a bank is, to my London mind, highly improbable. But then, this being a play that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this is just as well. The preposterousness of Fuller, both in his character and in his manner, provides much amusement, even if just occasionally the humour becomes rather dark.

For the most part, however, the banter and the punchlines are light-hearted, and while Fuller may be flattering Rose with gifts galore, it slowly becomes clear that at least one gift was never really his to give. Arthur (Jos Vantyler) is also after money, assisted by Jack (a seemingly inexhaustibly energetic Jordan Metcalfe), who in turn has roped his girlfriend Lisa (Kat Rose-Martin) into certain schemes of his own.

The links between characters are revealed, layer by layer, until there are so many connections between people that it’s all far too coincidental to be credible. Again, this is part of the show’s appeal. In portraying the absurd, there’s much to be said about human faults, even in more plausible situations elsewhere.

The script (Blake Morrison) is clever and witty, and the inclusion of asides to the audience is a simple but effective device in further increasing interest and intrigue into proceedings. I cannot claim to have fully understood every word, such is the strength of the Yorkshire dialect in the play, nor can I vouch for the Yorkshire accent of every Yorkshire character (though not for nothing is the producing theatre company called Northern Broadsides). The gist of what was happening was always clear, however.

With justification, my fellow theatregoer thought Teresa (Sarah Parks), described in the show’s programme merely as ‘a visitor’, looked as though she were a panto dame. There were other moments in which the show bordered on having some of the characteristics of a pantomime, with over-elaborate forms of speech and certain mannerisms. Make of that what you will.

I found the general lack of sentimentality refreshing. The sheer number of plot twists makes the show fascinating. A fairly briskly-paced play, the plot is gloriously unpredictable (for the most part, anyway), and with everyone so human, and therefore fallible, it’s deliberately difficult for the audience to find someone – anyone – on stage to get behind. All things considered, this is a charming and cheerful production. One more thing: do stay to the end, if you at all can – the company’s curtain call dance is worth seeing.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

It’s the 1920s. In a small Yorkshire town, the wily-widow, Rose (Sarah-Jane Potts, Waterloo Road; Holby City), entertains the advances of two dubious suitors. Fuller (Barrie Rutter) is a fabulously rich and morally corrupt banker who woos Rose by parading his wealth whilst hiding a few secrets. Handsome Arthur (Jos Vantyler) is much younger and deceitful through and through. He plays Rose for as much money as she can take from Fuller.

A love triangle then; a deliciously wicked tale of rivalry and greed.

Throw in a bailiff (Jordan Metcalfe), a drunkard, a vamp, a second-hand clothes dealer and two upwardly mobile servants, and the complications multiply.

Adapted from Alain-Rene Lesage’s savage eighteenth-century comedy Turcaret, Blake Morrison’s For Love or Money is a story of monstrous wealth and whopping lies.

For Love Or Money
Tue 31 Oct – Sat 04 Nov 2017
Written by Blake Morrison | Directed by and featuring Barrie Rutter | Designed by Jessica Worrall
A Northern Broadsides production
https://www.rosetheatrekingston.org/

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