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For Love or Money review at Viaduct Theatre, Halifax – ‘ribald wordplay and mucky jokes’

Barrie Rutter in For Love or Money at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax. Photo: Nobby Clark
Barrie Rutter in For Love or Money at the Viaduct Theatre, Halifax. Photo: Nobby Clark

This Northern Broadsides production has the whiff of another era about it. It might well be set in 1920s Yorkshire and adapted from an 18th century play by Alain-Rene Lesage – himself taking his cue from Moliere’s Tartuffe – but its comic tropes and slightly retrograde sexual politics place it more in the era of Brian Rix, Ray Cooney and their door-slamming, trouser-dropping Whitehall farces.

Blake Morrison’s cocksure adaptation wrings maximum humour from the opportunist love triangle between “guinea-hungry flibbertigibbet” widow Rose (Sarah-Jane Potts) and her two contrasting suitors, while taking still timely potshots at corrupt bankers, as personified by Barrie Rutter’s vault-raiding, lovestruck financier Algy.

The ribald wordplay and mucky jokes come thick and fast, bolstered by some convincingly arcane Yorkshire dialect. But as Rose tries to exploit Algy and suave spiv Arthur (a greasily charismatic Jos Vantyler) plots with his sidekick Jack (Jordan Metcalfe, winningly channelling everyone who’s ever played Servant of Two Masters’ Truffaldino) to fleece both of them, the lack of any likeable protagonists robs the audience of anyone to really root for.

Luckily Rutter, directing his second-to-last Northern Broadsides production before stepping away from the company he founded 25 years ago, knows exactly how to work a crowd. The performances aren’t quite as slick as you’d expect – with the cast occasionally stepping on each other’s lines – but a pacy final third, some fine, if crudely drawn, comic cameos and the meticulously plotted way in which everyone gets their comeuppance makes up for the slightly reductive air to proceedings.

Verdict
A crowd-pleasing production that blunts the cleverness of Lesage’s original tale  
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