Writer: Ray Cooney
Director: Marti Schep
Reviewer: Matthew Forrest
The undoubted king of the farce has been churning out classic British comedy theatre for well over 50 years. The actor and playwright has had 17 of his plays performed and must be considered ‘a national treasure’.
Salford’s Barton Theatre Company have decided to undertake one of Cooney’s later offerings: Funny Money for a short run in the Studio at the Lowry. The plot focuses on middle-aged accountant Henry Perkins. It’s his birthday and he’s late for a special meal his wife Jean has planned with their friends Vic and Betty. On the tube journey home Perkins manages to pick up the wrong suitcase: in it he discovers £735,000. He takes the suitcase to the pub to form a plan of how they are going to start a new life in Barcelona. However, Perkins’s delight attracts the interest of Davenport – a local police with questionable morals.
In addition, we have “Mr. Nasty”, as Perkins calls him, the rightful owner of the briefcase; his failure to deliver the briefcase to its intended target sees him dispatched to the bottom of the Thames via Putney Bridge. With the police and now the criminal underworld taking an interest in Henry and his briefcase, will he and Jean manage to escape to Barcelona? A series of lies involving Vic and Betty, an irate taxi driver and two police officers on very different sides of the law may just see them leave with the money.
The essential component to any farcical comedy is timing: without timing you have nothing, and I’m sad to say Barton Theatre were off their game this evening. Could it be opening night nerves, who knows? Lines were forgotten, missed cues, actors could be spotted wandering at the back of the set, at one point one actor managed to get lost on the set! It made an already confusing plot even more confusing. Some 30 minutes in, all concerned were fully aware it was all going ‘tits-up’ and decided to go along with it: the farce became a farce in itself, and one of the funniest evening’s nights out, all be it unintentionally.
As well as the opening night jitters, Cooney’s script certainly shows its age, with outdated references to race and sexuality, the script really hasn’t aged well at all. It’s a credit to all concerned that they managed to finish the performance and do so with a smile. Sure, it was shambolic and a bit of mess: but no one could say they weren’t entertained. Personally, one hopes these glitches can be ironed out for the rest of the run at The Lowry and the performance given as intended because that is what both the company and audience deserve.
Runs until 11 September 2018