In farce, characters are always on the brink of disaster and the threats are often huge and very serious. Attempts at defusing the tension only leads to more tension. Ordinary people in an extraordinary state of affairs.
From the mind of Ray Cooney, OBE, and bursting with frequent buffoonery and horseplay, comes the Origins Theatre production of Funny Money, directed by Geoff Kirk.
Funny Money received its premiere in June 1994 at The Churchill Theatre in Bromley, London. The original cast included Cooney himself, Hugh Lloyd (Hugh and I), Trevor Bannister (Are You Being Served?) and Henry McGee (famous for his double act with Benny Hill).
In a similar fashion to Cooney’s most famous farce, Run for Your Wife, this quick and well-paced production relies on situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, and thus improbable to entertain the audience. One cover story leads to another, one white lie leads to three bigger lies, and so on and so forth…
The basic threat of the story comes from an unidentified criminal (Kevin Chance), looking for a briefcase containing over £1,000,000 in cash! This king’s ransom has fallen into the wrong hands, and whoever has it should know that this individual is prepared to murder anyone who stands in his way!
Having picked up said briefcase by mistake on his way home from work, Henry Perkins (Kevin Wilson) has decided that since the money clearly has no legitimate owner, he is entitled to accept it as a godsend. He rushes home and books a one way flight to Barcelona for himself and his overstrung wife Jean (Rebecca Lennon), determined to flee before whoever was expecting the cash can demand it back.
It’s the perfect getaway plan, but Henry walks into one obstacle after another. The first is Jane, who has been preparing a special meal for his birthday, to which friends Vic (Peter Stockman) and Betty Johnson (Lorna Wilson) have been invited. She sees no reason to leave home forever at the mere drop of a hat.
The second is a dodgy detective called Davenport (John Hammond) who watched Henry’s movements at a pub, diving in and out of the toilets as he decided what to do with the briefcase, and found them very suspicious. Henry is forced to partially confess to soliciting, and buy him off with a substantial sum from the case! Soon enough, the two friends, a cab driver (Duncan Greaves), a dead body and another detective (Alan Johnson) are all thrown into the mix together and problems escalate!
Overall, this was a highly animated and well executed farce – light and droll with a happy ending. With major praise to Geoff Kirk for his direction, the production team and of course the talented actors, this local production of Funny Money is both genuinely humorous and easy viewing for everyone. I very much look forward to Origin Theatre’s next outing!
Performance reviewed: Tuesday 15th August
Reviewed by Jack Brading
Catch the last performance at Shanklin Theatre on Wednesday 16th August @ 7:30pm!