For Love or Money West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds/Touring 3/5
WITH its depiction of corporate greed, there was outrage when Turcaret was first staged in 1709, eventually leading to Alain-Rene Lesage’s satire being pulled after only seven performances.
Now adapted by Blake Morrison for Northern Broadsides, and renamed For Love or Money, it’s a much cosier affair.
Relocated from pre-revolutionary France to a small village in Yorkshire in the 1920s, it’s a gently humorous indictment of capitalist corruption which, while it won’t rock the Establishment in the way of the original, has themes that are still relevant.
In it, bank manager Algy (Barrie Rutter) bestows money on widower Rose (Sarah-Jane Potts) while benefitting from financial irregularities at the expense of the poor.
The besotted Rose, in turn, gives the cash to her caddish cousin Arthur (Jos Vantyler), who is fleeced by his put-upon manservant Jack (Jordan Metcalfe).
The only honest and likeable character, housekeeper Marlene (Jacqueline Naylor), is dismissed during the first act for her plain speaking.
There’s no shortage of rhyming wordplay and humorously inventive phrases — “grab him by his bonus!” urges Algy’s estranged sister — yet it’s a production that never really comes alive, despite strong performances all around, particularly the comedic double-act from dodgy duo Arthur (Jos Vantyler) and his sidekick Jack (Jordan Metcalfe). The play’s farcical nature undercuts any sense of moral comeuppance, even during the closing scenes when all the chickens come home to roost, enfeebled by the cast winking at the audience during a period dance.
There’s much to enjoy but For Love or Money fails to send Rutter off on the high that he deserves as the company’s resigning founder and artistic director.