Tons of Money

Will Evans and Valentine, adapted by Alan Ayckbourn
New version of Ayckbourn’s National Theatre 1986 production
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, and touring

Production graphic

This production has almost all the ingredients for a classic farce – convoluted plot, mistaken identity, and everyone madly overacting. The only missing ingredient being the absence of the numerous doors through which the characters usually have to come and go with split-second timing, making certain that they only just miss each other at crucial points in the story. Here they manage very well with only two, which obviates the necessity for the timing, but they make up for that with the complexity of the narrative.

Simon Scullion’s set is a beautifully elegant drawing room, where breakfast has been set, but at eleven thirty the master of the house (Aubrey, played by an ebullient Mark Curry) has not yet arrived. A large clock on the mantelpiece shows the time, which turns out of be a crucial element in the tale to follow. It seems that Aubrey and his wife Louise are living a happy-go-lucky lavish lifestyle with all the goods and services that credit can buy, but the day of reckoning is fast approaching and the bills are rolling in. “Disgusting the way people give credit” says Aubrey. “It ought to be made a criminal offence” replies Louise. The play was originally written around nineteen fourteen - in some ways the world seems not to change at all!

Help is at hand with the arrival of solicitor Chesterman (Eric Richard) with news of an inheritance – Tons of Money to come, their worries are over – unless the cousin who moved to Mexico some years ago, and now believed to be dead, turns up unexpectedly.

From then on the comedy takes off at high speed, taking in many twists and turns and with numerous complications, giving the audience no time to dissect the facts and work out the absurdity of it all.

Caroline Langrishe’s Louise is the one holding the whole show together and dictating the course of the action (and she does so magnificently) with her ‘bright ideas’ involving Aubrey having to ‘die’ at least three times, and three different men disguised as the missing cousin turning up one after another, to be greeted effusively each time by his wife Jean (Lysette Anthony) who “would know him anywhere”.

Christopher Timothy is the butler with an eye on acquisition of the money himself, with support from Finty Williams as the maid with hopes of marriage, and Janet Henfry as Miss Mullet became instantly recognisable, particularly when she read out the weather forecast, from her appearances in the delightful television series As Time Goes By. These three are the most credible characters in a household described as “a mad house or they’re a bunch of crooks”. Henfry in particular is a delight with her caustic comments and her “pinch of salt” to help swallow the fantastic stories being told of life in Mexico.

If you enjoy farce you’ll love this play, but even if this is not your style it is a very pleasant evening’s entertainment on a wet and windy winter night.

Reviewer: Sheila Connor

Are you sure?