Money, deception and laughs in 1920s Yorkshire: We sent Ruth Lee to review Blake Morrison’s modern adaptation of Lesage’s eighteenth century comedy.
A modern adaptation of Alain-René Lesage’s Turcaret (1709), For Love Or Money at York Theatre Royal is a must-see light-hearted comedy, guaranteed to raise spirits and laughter. Adapted for Northern Broadsides by Blake Morrison and directed by Barrie Rutter, its topic of greed and capitalist corruption is as relevant to its contemporary audience as it was to those under Louis XIV’s reign. The satirised Parisian tax-farmers, knights and marquis reworked as the residents of a Yorkshire town in the late 1920s; their stories intertwine around the bank manager Fuller. Who is to trust in this play? Is anyone as innocent as they seem?
Fuller is in pursuit of the stereotypical, naïve and seemingly air-headed widow Rose; admirably played by Sarah-Jane Potts. Yet as she accepts tokens from Fuller, she is illogically besotted with the conman Arthur; an attraction which is unfortunately not altogether explicable. Helping Arthur with his operations is Jack, the young, impoverished lad from the lower classes. It was this performance by Jordan Metcalfe which stole the show; he brought such strong energy and childlike spontaneity to the performance. His expertly crafted physical comedy and charismatic delivery were a pleasure to watch and should earn him hefty recognition.
Blake Morrison’s adaptation alluded to Shakespeare’s style; playful verses delivered by Metcalfe were instantly comparable with those of the sprite Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jacqueline Naylor whose sharp wit and ferocious intellect as Marlene also sparked connections to Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing; an impressive performance to be applauded. Multi-rolling as Fuller’s sister, her reappearance was particularly satisfying.
Rose was able to glide around the spacious and sparsely furnished living room in her luxurious costume with only the whiskey decanter and a couple of chairs serving as comforts. The portrait-sized lighter patches on the wallpaper, reveal that they have also been pawned off; a witty constant reminder of the extravagance which Rose and Fuller pursue. This sparse layout enabled comedic choreography to take the forefront, most frequently involving Jack and Arthur. From lifts leading to seemingly passionate embraces, which comically serve only for the men to sneak a glass of whiskey. Farcical and suitable for all ages, For Love Or Money is an innovative adaptation in which Barrie Rutter and Blake Morrison once again collaborate.