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For Love or Money

This daft comedy about greed is Barrie Rutter's last act Northern Broadsides theatre company - and it's a fine tribute.

Photo by Nobby Clark

Barrie Rutter, 70, the founder and artistic director of the Halifax-based Northern Broadsides has announced that he’s stepping down after leading the company for 25 years. While it’s sad to see him depart it’s good to know that he’s ending on an absolute high with For Love or Money, a new adaptation by his long-time associate Blake Morrison of the 1709 comedy Turcaret by French playwright Alain-René Lesage.

This “daft comedy about greed”, as the company calls it, is now set in Yorkshire in the late 1920s. Impecunious but romance-seeking war widow Rose, played with a knowing innocence by Sarah-Jane Potts, is wooed by two suitors.

One is her cousin Arthur, a ne’er-do-well doctor’s son on the make, a role to which Jos Vantyler brings an athletic prowess allied to a simpering contempt, while the other, the thieving and dishonest local bank manager Algy, is portrayed with almost maniacal glee by Rutter.

Photo by Nobby Clark

As these three circle each other in a sort of romantic tango, other characters flit in and out, including waspish housekeeper Marlene (the effective Jacqueline Naylor) who acts as a one-woman Greek chorus, and the brash and cocky Jack (a standout Jack-the-lad performance from Jordan Metcalfe) who acts as a servant for two masters – Arthur and Algy – while making plans to enrich himself and his girlfriend Lisa (Kat Rose-Martin).

Add into that mix the simple Yorkshire farmer Martin wronged by Algy (a masterclass in comic timing by Jim English) and the bank manager’s wife Teresa, played with superb faded blowsiness by Sarah Parks, and you have all the ingredients of a wonderful comic evening.

Conspired entrances and exits combine with a raft of coincidences and tricky moments to keep up the momentum in a play that never lacks vitality. Broad Yorkshire accents and mentions of “chatter-watter” (tea), “nip-cheese” (miser) and “glumpy” (gloomy) also give this farce an extra comic veneer that lifts it above the ordinary.

Greed may be the main theme – everyone is looking to enrich themselves, from Rose downwards – but it’s the play’s life, animation and vitality that make it a wonderful comic evening and a glorious tribute to the indefatigable Barrie Rutter and his cast.

Review by John Clarke

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