Funny Money

 

 

Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Funny Money

Grange Players

Bloxwich Library Theatre

*****

Out of adversity has come a cracking comedy which hurtles along at a breakneck pace.

And speed is the key, because, to be honest, the plot to this Ray Cooney farce does not bear a great deal of scrutiny – subtlety and sophistication are not among Mr Cooney’s strong points.

So, to work, the cast dare not hesitate or dawdle or the audience will have time to think, and that could be fatal in a tale as daft as this.

But fear not, the cast of eight zoom through it like a pack of Jack Russell’s on speed.

The story is simple. Jean is panicking because husband Henry is late home for his birthday dinner with friends Vic and Betty who are due any minute.

Henry, played with manic invention by Adam Woodward, finally arrives, acting like a man possessed – a trait he then develops for the rest of the evening with madcap idea piled on madcap idea in a sort of tottering tower of lies.

It seems there was some mix-up with briefcases on the tube home and he has picked up someone elses . . . and someone else’s contains £735,000 cash in used £50 notes.

ILL GOTTEN GAINS

A lucky error which unleashes a torrent of lunacy as lie after lie is laid down to build a wall of ever less credible explanation as Henry desperately tries to escape abroad with his ill-gotten gains

And around it all we have a bent copper, a real copper investigating the murder of someone who is still very much alive, male solicitation in the pub, hanky-panky under a blanket by non-existent relatives, half a cheese and chutney sarnie, two car crashes with a pedestrian knocked down and, to spice things up, a bit of international wife swapping – oh, and if you are worried about the cat, it was only stunned when it was run over.

And what of the man whose briefcase it was? Let us call him Mr Nasty, well they did, and Mr Nasty is now Mr corpse in the morgue which leaves a mysterious Mr Big wanting his money back to add a sinister moment to the madness.

And all that, with plenty of laughs and buckets of inuendo chucked in, packed into a couple of hours including interval. You can’t say you don’t get your money’s worth there.

Liz Berriman is a delight as wife Jean, panicking at her husband’s late arrival and then panicking even more as the night goes on – only calming down – as in tired and emotional - when the copious amounts of brandy kick in.

Friends Vic and Betty arrive as by-standers and find themselves unwilling participants in the ever more bizarre game of charades played by Henry.

Rod Bissett’s Vic is not exactly Mensa material but goes along with Henry’s shenanigans even if he is not sure who or what he is supposed to be at any one time.

While Suzy Donnelly’s Betty seems to be an island of calm, almost a voice of reason, that is until the chance of sun, sex and £735,000 on a Barcelona beach crops up.

Waiting in the wings, or more likely a Toyota with 200,000 on the clock is Ben, or was it Bill, played by Sam Evans, the taxi driver with a £37.50 bill just for waiting for whoever it is who has booked his taxi to go somewhere or other at sometime or other.

LONG ARMS OF THE LAW

Then there are the long arms of the law with on the right side Craig Hobson as Slater from what appears to be the Yorkshire branch of Putney CID, investigating a murder most foul and needing the body to be identified – and carrying a briefcase identical to the one containing £735,000.

It couldn’t happen again . . . and again . . . and again . . . surely. It can  . . . and does . . . and does . . . and- you get the picture.

Then on the wrong side of the law we have the rather sly Davenport, played with an eye for the main chance by Dominic Holmes. Davenport is a sort of freelance, alternative justice system with his own system of crimes and charitable donations.

Make a donation to the home for retired Davenports and we will say no more about it sort of justice.

Which just leaves us with the villain of the piece, Mr Big, who looms large as Mr Brerfcurse – who wants his money back.

Although, to be fair, even as a psychotic killer, it’s hard to be threatening when you don’t speak English and have a broken ankle, cracked ribs, a broken jaw and concussion . . . but at least the poor bloke tries.

Somehow it all ends with everyone living happily ever after, or at least I think it did, although I am not sure about the sister in Sydney married to the sheep farmer in Melbourne, or was it Adelaide married to Sydney . . .  whatever. They all looked happy at the end.

Director Christopher Waters has done a fine job in keeping everything up to speed and on track so the rehearsed confusion on stage does not spread unrehearsed to the audience.

It is not just keeping up a fast pace though and the cast showed admirable timing to make sure lines and jokes were not lost in the hectic action – they showed a few little pauses with purpose here and there can create jokes in themselves.

The Grange Playhouse has been closed for essential maintenance and faces a £60,000 bill for work needed to comply with current standards and then necessary refurbishment – so it took a big effort to put on a production to Grange standards on an unfamiliar stage.

Sam Evans’ solid set was constructed and painted on site by cast and crew while Stan Vigurs took on the unfamiliar lights with Colin Mears on sound.

A theatre company’s income comes from staging plays so with their theatre closed, and a desperate need for funds, Grange have become a touring company, and it is a pity more people had not made the short journey to Bloxwich with them.

This was a play that was to have been staged last year when the theatre was suddenly closed, and it has been worth the wait. It’s a nonsensical tale with a plot that hold water as well as a colander,  but, what the heck, it’s a funny, fast-paced and highly entertaining evening. To 26-05-18

Roger Clarke

18-05-18  

Grange players

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