Review: For Love or Money, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Barrie Rutter in For Love or Money
Barrie Rutter in For Love or Money

So, he faces the final curtain – as Northern Broadsides’ artistic director and actor that is. Barrie Rutter is bowing out of the company he founded 25 years ago.

And he does so in the style to which his devoted audience has become accustomed – playing a rich, corrupt, debauched, pompous, pretentious, foolish, ageing gent.

Followers of Broadsides – and they number in their thousands – have seen Rutter play classic characters from Falstaff to Henry Ormonroyd in When We Are Married.

He is the very essence of Broadsides – so named to give a two-fingered salute to the theatre luvvies.

His productions have always been warm, big-hearted, heartily cast, accessible, driven by narrative, full of music and dance – and delivered in a northern voice.

For Love or Money is no exception. Blake Morrison has taken French playwright Alain-René Lesage’s farce Turcaret and set in a northern town just after the First World War. Rose is a widow long out of weeds for the mourning of her war hero husband. She is being courted by two men – the impecunious but handsome Arthur and the rich banker Algy, played by Rutter.

She is stringing along Algy – accepting his money and presents and handing them to Arthur and his sidekick Jack – who by turn are stringing her along.

Algy has a ‘partner in crime’ of his own, milking his customers for all they are worth.

And Jack is conning them all.

It is a veritable whirly-gig of con and counter con, of servant getting the better of master and having the last laugh.

The script is thick with Yorkshire accent – tea is chatter-watter – and there are times when it is hard to understand every word but you get the drift. The mucky jokes and clever word play come faster and thicker than the accents.

There are jokes about bankers and also theatrical nods not least of all to the London-centric Arts Council which denied Rutter the funding which led to his resignation from Broadsides.

It just does not get it – a half-hearted tour of a recast National Theatre play does not cut the mustard north of the South Bank. But Northern Broadsides does understand its audience and has delivered time and time again – and does so here.

One of its strengths is in the ensemble work.

Rutter is outstanding in another role tailored-made to fit. Sarah Parks steals the show as the foul-mouthed harpy pretending to be a French lady.

Sarah-Jane Potts is the perfect flapper Rose, the widowed aristocrat, and Jos Vantyler is a joy as the dandy Arthur.

Stephen Joseph Theatre favourite Matt Booth plays Algy’s bent bank clerk Ruddle and Jim English the ‘simple’ farmer Martin.

Always a delight, Jacky Naylor plays two roles – Rose’s housekeeper and Algy’s sister-in-law and Kat Rose-Martin is Lisa, the cleaner and streetwalker who is the counterpoint to Rose.

Conducting and manipulating them all is Jordan Metcalfe as the clever, working class bloke Jack.

Each character enters the stage to dance music – ragtime or charleston and take their bows in a dance.

Northern Broadsides and Barrie Rutter will carry on – though no longer together.

It was, while it lasted, a marriage made in heaven. A no-nonsense working class lad delivering theatre to an audience who wanted theatre with no frills – but a flat cap.

Ta lad.

For Love or Money runs at the Stephen Joseph Theatre until Saturday November 18. It is on Thursday November 16 at 1.30pm and 7pm, Friday Novemeber 17 at 7.30pm and Saturday November 18 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets: 01723 370541 or www.sjt.com