Take an eighteenth century French satire, decide on a more modern period in which to set it and the universal themes of trickery and greed should do the rest.
For Love Or Money by Northern Broadsides
York Theatre Royal
Till Sat Dec 02 2017
Alain Rene’s comedy adapts well to this new 1920s setting, yet harks back to its comedy roots reassuringly.
Here we have the clever servant, the greedy banker, the calculating widow and the ‘conman’ lover, all playing according to type – but the end result was disappointing.
Northern Broadsides production of For Love Or Money is Barrie Rutter’s last role as actor/ director and the play delivers all we have learnt to expect from the company. It is the play itself which falls below expectations.
There is the usual Yorkshire dialect and mucky innuendo, the action is quick and the acting slick but there is not enough to really satisfy.
Venal and rapacious
Barrie Rutter as Algy the banker is hypocritically venal and rapacious, Rose (Sarah Jane Potts) as the young widow is knowing and calculating and her lover Arth slippery as a very slippery thing.
But this mix needs the deft hand of a fixer and hey presto, he’s there as a servant Jack, played by Jordan Metcalfe, ably assisted by his girlfriend: Kat Rose-Martin.
The production was uneven and there was a mix of acting styles. I liked the use of a jazz theme to introduce the characters who perform a dance routine to signify their personalities.
This physicality should have been continued, as it was by Jos Vantyler: the lover. His sinuous movement was a joy and added the style the production generally lacked.
The scene between he and the farmer Martin, describing a failed seduction was very funny and really made good use of the double meanings which permeate the play.
I also loved the banker’s wife (Sarah Parks) who appeared in disguise, with a cod French accent masking a cockney whine; a real pantomime dame. Also the ‘cast Charleston’ for the finale was a master stroke which ended the show superbly.
But I felt at times, this last Rutter production for Broadsides almost outdid itself in exporting its company style.
Its Yorkshireness overcame the play in parts and obscured meaning. However, since this use of the local vernacular has established Northern Broadsides as special, it would be churlish to criticise.
All in all, I thought this was a disappointing finale to Barrie Rutter’s role in the company.
Some of Northern Broadsides past productions have achieved greater success, especially with Shakespeare.
But it’s true to say there was continuous laughter around me and many of the audience enjoyed it.
Barrie is on his way to London to play at The Globe Theatre and I wish him good luck!