Writer: Blake Morrison | Adapted from Alain- René Lesage’s Turcaret
Director: Barrie Rutter
Reviewer: Daryl Holden
It’s a huge gamble for Northern Broadsides to want to take a work from 18th Century France and set it in 1920’s Yorkshire. That’s why it’s no surprise when it doesn’t pay off.
Don’t expect much from this story. This so-called “comedy” comprises the vast majority of its humour in sex-related innuendos and more heavy-handed jabs at bankers than you’d find at a Question Time audience during the credit crunch and as such doesn’t deserve the right to call itself anything remotely funny. It has all the makings of every comedy to have ever existed; a young widow finds herself caught up in love for someone who is taking advantage of her wealth, while she herself takes advantage of the wealth of someone else who is in love with her, and they all get what’s coming to them. To set this show apart though, it has two unique selling points. The first is that it’s set in Yorkshire, and the other is that none of the characters are in any way likeable.
The piece sets its themes around greed and aims to show its audience the fallibility of us as a human race in a comedic way. What it achieves is neither this nor is it comedic. None of the characters on stage do anything to gain your trust. In every scene each of them is working, in some way to cheat each other out of money until it all ends up in the hands of the cliché “underdog couple”, and even then you don’t feel happy for them because they’ve been just as despicable as everyone else. Arguably, this is what the play wants to convey, but even then, surely there has to be at least some kind of protagonist to make us want to care about the message at all?
Acting wise, there are no stand out performances – when someone is talking, everyone else on the stage seems to switch off as if the eyes of the audience are only ever focused on whoever is speaking. There’s no differentiation between characters either. Every time an actor is told something, every single one of them, every single time, flails their arms and widens their mouth in gobsmacked awe they proceed to walk around the stage in a circular motion, flapping their arms up and down like a scene from March of the Penguins.
Of course, the problem lies not only with the acting, but the directing itself. The piece lacks any real change in pitch or tone, and the moments within the script don’t seem to have been fully realised. It’s played for comedy but sometimes garners nothing more than a light chuckle. An audience doesn’t like being told when to laugh, they like to decide for themselves what is and isn’t funny.
The main problem is that everyone’s constantly moving in two circular motions around the two chairs that inhabit this massive stage. It’s as if the actors only direction has been to move into where the stage seems empty as they move without their characters having any real motivation to do so, other than because they’ve been standing still for too long and it’s beginning to look horrifically stale. The best part of the part of this show is the curtain call, not because it’s the end of the piece but because the actors perform a truly brilliant dance routine that appears to be the only bit of original direction throughout the two-hour runtime.
When Turcaret (the original work on which this piece was adapted from) premiered in 1709, it caused such a huge uproar that the theatre quickly grew empty and it was removed after just seven shows. For Love or Money, however, can only dream or attracting such attention. Though, if it intends to carry on as it is, it may see a similarly empty theatre for other reasons.
Runs until 25 November 2017 | Image: Contributed