Pros: A stunning venue that is always worth a visit.
Cons: A farcical play that for many is just too dated and predictable.
The Rose Theatre Kingston is an incredible and unique venue. Not only because of the floor seating directly in front of the large stage where the audience can bring their own cushions to relax on! Having visited in the past for comedians and a musical, attending for a play seemed just too good an opportunity to decline.
Unfortunately For Love Or Money just didn’t do this lovely space justice, a shame for both venue and company behind the play. Whilst a great venue when full, when half empty, including just four hardy souls braving the floor, the space is instantly an issue. The gap between stage and audience seemed colossal, and from the very opening scene left you feeling removed. This wasn’t helped at all by the fact that the cast were performing without any audio assistance, and so voices seemed to be lost in that void. At times it felt like listening in to a conversation going on in the room next door.
For Love Or Money could be viewed as a very traditional British farce. It has gentle humour, a plot that slowly brings all the elements together and directing that stereotypes each and every character. Young, beautiful and widowed Rose is being wooed by two men of very differing styles. Rich bank manager Fuller and young, sharp, deceitful Arthur. As Fuller plies Rose with money and gifts, Arthur is quick to convince her to part with them. But as the story develops, it slowly becomes clear that Fuller isn’t the honest gent that he initially seems, and his lies, along with Arthur’s, are slowly revealed.
For many all these elements may work. Indeed the laughter throughout and the applause at the end could suggest my opinion was in the minority. Without being at all discourteous to my fellow audience members, maybe this is in fact targeted at the more genteel and older theatregoer (I did feel in the minority of those not yet retired as I looked around and I’m no spring chicken myself!) The issue for me was simply that this was too gentle, too polite, too play-by-numbers, when I am more familiar with the modern, daring shows that London’s fringe theatres have to offer. For Love Or Money just politely rolled along, each plot twist sign posted so far in advance the audience had ample time to make a cup of tea in preparation for them. Again though, maybe the play’s target audience expect as such and enjoy it that way. But for myself it felt dated and formulaic.
Whilst the first half ticked along with the occasional titter and smile, the second half stepped up the farce level. Now you might expect this to be a good thing given my previous comments, but in fact it left me more eager for the curtain. The introduction of new characters felt forced to draw the play to its chaotic conclusion, and when the final cog in the plot wheel was introduced, it was, shall we say, a farce too far. Of course, it wasn’t in one way surprising, having been signposted for the previous half hour. It was made worse by the fact I thought for a moment I was watching Grayson Perry in his finest cross dressing madness, such was the over the top and flamboyant performance.
For Love Or Money isn’t a terrible play, and there is surely an audience for it. That audience though is probably not me, and probably not those looking for something more than a gentle play that ends in a Charleston dance which has the audience merrily clapping along to.
Writer: Alain-Rene Lesage
Adapted: Blake Morrison
Director: Barrie Rutter
Production: Northern Broadsides
Booking Until: 4 November 2017
Box Office: 020 8174 0090
Booking Link: https://www.rosetheatrekingston.org/whats-on/for-love-or-money/book-tickets