Northern Broadsides’ adaption of Alain-Rene Lesage’s Turcaret comes to The Quarry Theatre where LEO OWEN caught the show

Noted for heavily injecting Northernisms into their work, Broadsides transport the action of this eighteenth century French comedy to a Yorkshire town. In Blake Morrison’s contemporary reworking Lesage’s chevalier, marquis and baroness become a bank manager, WW1 widow and doctor’s son. Remaining true to source material, Morrison renames Turcaret “For Love or Money”, reflecting the central characters’ inordinate greed.

Jessica Worrall’s design and period costumes simply reflect the play’s new 1920s’ timeframe and is suggestive of an estate of dwindling means. The faded grandeur of her set acts as a focal point throughout with the play occurring entirely in Rose’s (Sarah-Jane Potts) scantily- decorated manor house. Here we learn of Rose’s weakness for Arthur (Jos Vantyler), the dandy she squanders her inheritance on. Meanwhile elderly bank manager Fuller (soon to retire company founder Barrie Rutter) dotes on her and their servants plot for better lives.

Turcaret originally shocked audiences by attacking ruthless capitalists and exposing the dishonesty of local tax farmers in exploiting the poor for self-gain. Morrison’s more contemporary regional reimagining is unlikely to have such a monumental effect but some of the language used is a fitting celebration of bygone eras, resurrecting oft forgotten Yorkshire dialect, such as the term “nip-cheese”.

Although language is Morrison’s strength, character is not. There are no weak links in Rutter’s cast but there are equally no stand-out performances and this is undoubtedly the fault of extremely two-dimensional characters. All too often depressingly exposed for shallow money-grabbing swindlers, Morrison’s characters lack development. They’re not supposed to be likeable but it’s hard to care about them at all.

As members of the cheeky working classes, servant Jack (Jordan Metcalfe) and girlfriend Lisa (Kate Rose-Martin), are as close to heroes as we get. Managing to fleece the rich undetected, they’re supposed to be the ones we root for but instead manage to irritate, resulting partly from the show’s over-exaggerated acting style, nodding to commedia dell'arte.

For Love or Money poses the titular dilemma, prompting us to question what’s more important in life while never giving a definitive answer. It’s twee and farcical without the precise comic timings or cleverly comedic one liners to wholly absorb or elicit more than the occasional snort. Northern audiences will enjoy its setting while some older viewers relish the pomposity of Rutter’s character. However, as the money repeatedly passes back and forth between the characters, it’s easy to feel like a cat bored of chasing the string.

For Love or Money showed at The West Yorkshire Playhouse September 27-30, 2017 before continuing its UK tour: