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Show Me The Money, Chelsea Theatre – Review

Tony Diggle 
Directed by Matthew Gould
★★

Pros: A simple, cheerful story that is easy to follow in a homely and friendly atmosphere. 

Cons: The predictable storyline and the actors’ strange, unnecessary facial twitches.

Our Verdict: A romantic comedy that would have benefited from a little more of both romance and comedy.

Courtesy of Castlebar Productions

Cycling for what seemed forever down posh but quaint King’s Road in Chelsea, as the traffic thinned and the trees became more abundant, made me feel as though I were returning to my childhood village. Arriving at a place called “World’s End”, entering a stage that smelt wonderfully of my stuffy and damp old attic, and the play Show Me The Money itself, which is as endearing and nonsensical as the scene suggests, completed the picture of rural harmony and simplicity.

Tony Diggle’s Show Me The Money is described as a romantic comedy about the way money distorts everything we do: David has just turned forty, and he is determined to finally start making some real money and find the girl of his dreams. When his work mates sign him up to a dating site and upsell his assets a little, he gets to know Jen, who is looking for a rich man. The simple plot is complicated a little when Jen is chased by a The Godfather-type figure for stolen money she is suspected of hiding. Everything turns out well in the end however, when David, though having lost his job, inherits money from a distant aunt and saves Jen by providing the sought-after cash. So far, so good – comedies are not known for their complex storylines, and this play was no exception.

However, the plot did lack that wit, fun and laughter that usually redeems this kind of storyline. I also wish the characters had been more strongly developed. While there was an effort to introduce their backgrounds and family situations, these details did not really contribute to the story and weren’t very convincing. The spark between Jen and David was missing, too – for a romantic comedy, there was very little actual romance. What I also found confusing were the actor’s strange facial and verbal tics, which were put on for comic effect. Rather than make the action funnier, it seemed to distract the actors, and it often seemed that they were not interacting with each other, but concentrating on making strange faces and noises. In David’s case, these twitches did succeed in rendering him more awkward and geeky – and in some ways, more endearing – but also kind of overemphasised this particular character trait.

I did enjoy the staging – a triangle of different tables – an office desk, a pub, and a coffee table, each accompanied by their respective chairs. This gave the stage an artistic and well-balanced feel, and the lighting was subtle and did not distract from the action.

As a female reviewer, however, I have to admit that I was irked by the gender roles. Within the story of the geeky sheltered city man who meets the rough-and-ready woman, there was a troublingly dispassionate and flippant attitude towards the fact that Jen is really no more than a prostitute, who is only interested in David insofar as he is “loaded” – and the ending of the play is happy insofar as she marries a man, not whom she loves, but who can take care of her – not necessarily a progressive or original story for a modern new play with only a single female character (if one discounts Fiona McKinnons’ voice, which read the news towards the end). This may well be me just over-analysing the play, while I should have just sat back, relaxed and laughed – but it did bother me.

All in all, I found the entire play rather difficult to sit through. It lacked wit and insight, and it did not manage to comment on “the way money distorts everything we do” as it set out to do.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Show me the Money runs at Chelsea Theatre until 5th October 2013.
Box Office: 020 7352 1967 or book online at http://www.chelseatheatre.org.uk

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