Tons of Money

Date 19th April 2024
Society Winton Players
Venue Festival Hall, Petersfield
Type of Production Farce
Director Jane Blower
Written By Alan Ayckbourn

Report

Author: Mark Donalds

Tons of Money was originally produced in 1922, written by Will Evans and Arthur Valentine, as one of the famous Aldwych Farces. Alan Ayckbourn has cleverly brought it up to date and lent it his comedy genius, but it still retains a flavour of the original period. An unsuccessful inventor inherits an interest in a fortune which will revert to his cousin on his death. Since the cousin is known to be dead, why not stage his own death so that his wife inherits the fortune and is able to pay off their considerable debts? Of course we can guess what’s going to happen, but we are teased along to the conclusion with lots of misunderstandings, imposters and much use of the many doors. Classic farce.

The flavour of the 1920s was firmly established by the fantastic set (those clever Bodgers again), set on the floor of the hall rather than the stage, and showing the well-furnished living room and part of the garden of the Allington’s house. Well-chosen costumes (Jane Blower and Penny Young) and wigs (Jay Elsey) completed the picture, and everything was well lit (Simon Auty of the Green A Team).

Director Jane Blower has chosen a splendid cast to bring this piece to life. Steve Cliff was perfect as inventor Aubrey Allington, very laid-back, not the sharpest knife in the drawer but gamely going along with his wife’s bizarre schemes for staging his death: blowing himself up (tremendous effect here: Giles Collard of the Green A Team – I leapt out of my seat), becoming a monk and drowning in the river. Lucy Davies gave a beautifully spirited performance as Aubrey’s wife Louise, meeting each new crisis with more mad ideas. Her energy really drove the play along. Anne-Lise Kadri was splendid as the cynical and dotty Aunt, Miss Mullett, giving us the impression that she knew more than she let on, and sharp as a bacon slicer with her questioning. Joff Lacey was spot on as the put-upon butler, Sprules – all seeing and all knowing, secretly reading the will and determined to get his share.

Star of the show for me was Kate Gardner as the delightfully mad maid, Simpson, a real gem of a part which she made her own, scampering about the stage, madly in love with Sprules. She also coped well with the rather lengthy dusting and table laying in the introductory scene, making it look realistic. Another lovely character part was Giles the Gardener, played to monosyllabic, plodding perfection by Wayne Pinhorn.

Completing the cast were Jo Stephenson as Louise’s friend Jean who convinced us she had been married to all three incarnations of cousin George, despite their differences in appearance; Gabriel Hearst as the stern family solicitor, Chesterman; Steve Sheppard as Henry, Sprules’ brother and second imposter George; and Roland Goodbody as the real cousin George, completely bewildered by what was going on.

It took a while for the play to gather pace as the scene was set, but by the time we got to Scene 2 in Act 1, things were moving along nicely, and the jokes were coming thick and fast as we moved into the mayhem and chases of Act 2. The cast kept the energy levels up well and we all left well pleased with a great evening’s entertainment.

 

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