Northern Broadsides brings For Love or Money to West Yorkshire Playhouse this week as part of a national tour. A bawdy tangle of love triangles and caddish skulduggery, this reimagined comedy is set in Roaring Twenties’ Yorkshire with a company of colourful, crazy characters.
For Love or Money is based on the 18th Century comedy Turcaret, by Alain-René Lesage, and in some ways retains a few of its Restoration comedy conventions. The play relies upon implausible conveniences which escalate into absurdity, whilst characters occasionally break the fourth wall, proffering expositional asides. It’s also wholly underpinned by sex and wealth; Blake Morrison’s playful adaptation serves a bounty of lewd gags wrapped up with evocative dialogue, often straying into lyrical, rhyming couplets. As opposed to a traditional comedy, For Love or Money offers an interesting style with a fresh approach and is almost akin to a highly-refined, dramatic pantomime.
Barrie Rutter stars and directs in one of his last outings as Artistic Director of Northern Broadsides. There is a restless movement throughout the show, offering a balletic choreography which helps the physical gags fly. The detail in the writing is so dense, however, that a few of the sharper, leaner quips are at risk of being lost in the action. As such, For Love or Money is a show which demands a well-tuned ear. Be it the complex farce, cutting observations or well-tuned accents, there is a breadth of detail to be enjoyed, but it demands some focus from its audience.
Rutter specialises in playing inflated elder statesmen and his portrayal of Fuller the fawning, middle-class bank manager is deliciously bravura. Sarah-Jane Potts plays Rose, a widowed flower, with an innocent clarity and charm, whilst Jos Vantyler is perfectly caddish and sleazy as Arthur the fraudster. Jordan Metcalfe as Jack is the perfect likeable bastard; a dancing, prancing, Lear’s Fool who hides his scheming behind a warm, Northern charm. In a short but memorable performance, Sarah Parks steals scenes as Teresa, a deliciously over-the-top grotesque whose French accidence is a particular highlight of the show. The whole company are engaging and as befits all Northern Broadsides productions, ensure a Yorkshire voice proudly resonates.
The play’s comedy spans slapstick to desert-dry wit; I could discern three distinct audiences reacting very differently to a landscape of comedic performance within the show, demonstrating the play’s wide comedic range. References to archaic Yorkshire dialogue (I can’t recall the last time I heard anyone call somebody a hellcat) will undoubtedly tickle a mature audience. Detailed character studies and comedy grotesques will certainly draw giggles from younger fringe quarters, whilst the pratfalling farce which wraps up the play will cheer even the most resistant observer. In short, it’s a funny play with something for everyone.
Forged with a rich Yorkshire flavour and offering an infectious daftness, For Love or Money is a very enjoyable knockabout comedy executed with warmth and charm. Striking plenty of comedy bullseyes, it’s a bold, brash and unapologetically broad romp.
Cast: Jacqueline Naylor, Sarah-Jane Potts, Jordan Metcalfe, Jos Vantyler, Barrie Rutter, Jim English, Kat Rose-Martin, Matthew Booth, Sarah Parks. Director: Barrie Rutter Writer: Blake Morrison Theatre: West Yorkshire Playhouse Duration: 135 minutes Dates: 25th – 30th September 2017.