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

Fast, funny and right on the money

Cast and crew for Funny Money

Funny Money

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


THE first problem with farce is that it looks simple, a few laughs and rushing about and Bob's your uncle, or in this case probably another Australian brother-in-law heading to Heathrow for a flight home.

The second problem with farce is that to make it look simple it needs impeccable timing and a well-paced rhythm, a bit like a swan gliding serenely by with the unseen feet going like the clappers underneath.

On the whole the hard working cast managed it and although it ran out of steam a little in the middle of the second act and there were a few fumbled lines the boiler was soon stoked up again to build up to the clever final twist.

To explain the plot would need flow charts and several appendices so suffice to say that Henry Perkins is a mild mannered accountant who comes into a small fortune by accident and when you find a fortune the chances are someone has lost it, in this case Mr Nasty. That problem is solved when Mr Nasty is found with two new ventilation holes in his head, thanks to a mysterious and very foreign Mr Big who then takes on the duties of getting the missing money back.

Enter a bent copper, charges of soliciting in the gents of the local boozer, a straight copper investigating the death of Mr Nasty, who he thinks is Henry, two friends who double up as brothers, sisters, in-laws and anyone else, wife swapping and a taxi driver who finds his intended passengers and destinations change by the minute – and finds his taxi in two accidents without going anywhere; in short it's a typical Ray Cooney farce.

The art of farce is to take a credible(ish) situation, then add an innocent twist that needs a tiny lie to hide or justify what is really going on. 

 Henry (Alan Woollaston) explains his next cunning plan to friends and part time relations Betty (Janet Bright) and Vic (Andrew Whittle) and wife and part time sister-in-law Jean (Sue Hawkins)

Little lies are like Topsy though so it needs a bigger lie to cover the tiny lie. That soon needs an even bigger lie until we are in the realm of great big whoppers with more balls in the air than a jugglers' convention as everything spirals out of control.Thus we have the truth, the whole truth and the version of the truth for the bent copper, the version for the straight copper and confusion for the waiting taxi driver who gets bits of whatever version is running depending upon who is in the room when he knocks to see how much longer everyone will be.

Alan Woollaston does a fine job as Henry, the orchestrator of half-baked explanations to the local constabulary while Sue Hawkins as wife Jean quietly, well not that quiet really, works her way through the brandy bottle.

Janet Bright adds some sexy allure to Betty, arriving for dinner to celebrate Henry's birthday, who finds wife swapping an attractive proposition, especially if there is £735,000 – cash – to go with it while Andrew Whittle gives us the resigned air of a man overtaken then overwhelmed by circumstance as Betty's long suffering husband Vic.

Then there is the law, On one side of it is Det Sgt Davenport, played with roguish charm by Chris Kingsley, who is bent as a nine bob note and always willing to accept donations for his favourite charity – DS Davenport.

On the more “Evenin' all” side is DS Slater, a sort of old school Insp Wexford type, played with solid dependability by Jim Austin, who arrives to give the tragic news to Jean about the poor late Henry only to find he has entered bedlam.

Popping in and out we have Ben . . . sorry Bill, played by Oliver Goldfinch, who has the cantankerous London cabbie off to a tee. Bill, who is waiting to take Henry to Heathrow to avoid Mr Big, has a couple of great lines but his best, and perhaps the best in the play comes after Henry appears to have had his windfall snatched from him and is bemoaning his lost plans for “Barcelona, Bali, wife swapping . . .”  

Bill inquires innocently: “Is that through Thomas Cook?”.

The mysterious Mr Big, played by John Kershaw, finally makes an appearance, looking, and sounding, a bit like an extra from a Siberian production of The Merchant of Venice, and there are some nice special effects as the Perkins' home gets shot up before Mr Big becomes Mr Flat and sat upon as he is arrested.

As with all farces it all comes right, well sort of right, in the end, with a nice twist to tie up all the loose ends . . . apart from one.

Andy Hares has produced a good set with plenty of doors and a stairway - a pre-requisite of farce - while director Sue Smith managed to keep up a cracking pace, and avoid confusing the audience, another key element. We have to know exactly what is going on so we . . . know exactly what is going on if you see what I mean.

There were a couple of fluffed lines and entrances but this is a much more complex play than it appears and the cast did a splendid job in keeping everything rattling along. They were funny, kept the audience laughing and entertained and what more can you ask for in farce. As for the loose, loose end . . . what is going to happen to the cat that Ben, I mean Bill, was going to look after? To 18-05-13.

Roger Clarke 

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