Western Gold Theatre
Funny Money by Ray Cooney

When & Where March 25 – 27, 2022 at 7:30pm Friday & Saturday, and Sat & Sun matinees at 2pm | PAL Studio Theatre, 581 Cardero

Director Anna Hagan Dramaturg Production Design Glenn MacDonald Lighting Design Matthew Bissett Stage Manager Kare Chiang

Reviewer John Jane

After a two year postponement, Ray Cooney's British farce finally comes to the PAL Studio Theatre. With only a small window for rehearsals, director Anna Hagan wisely opts for a script-in-hand performance. Well executed farce requires at a minimum, quick deadpan delivery and precise comic timing and for me at least, should be halfway believable. Despite the persistent page-turning, the talented cast manage to pull off the first two elements.

Set in the Fulham, West London home of Henry and Jean Perkins (Terence Kelly and Anabelle Kershaw), Cooney constructs a meter of retro silliness in real time action for this comedy that borders on théâtre de l'absurde.

It all starts unhurriedly, with Henry somehow managing to get his briefcase switched with one that is identical, but for the contents. When Henry discovers that the briefcase now in his possession contains £735,000, he makes a detour on his way home to count it in a local pub. He assumes, correctly as it eventually turns out, that the money is a result of ill-gotten gain. He therefore believes he is entitled to keep it and contemplates heading off to Barcelona with wife and the spoils - first class, of course.

Beyond Jean Perkin's reluctance to step outside the rules, Henry's pre-planned birthday dinner celebration also stands in the way of their would-be departure. The couple and their guests, Vic and Betty Johnson (Bernard Cuffling and Tanja Dixon-Warren) further confuse the situation by trying to pass themselves off as relatives visiting from Australia when questioned by the police.

One fundamental component of the suspension of disbelief is to accept that a covert windfall of that amount would really be worth turning your life upside-down for. The other component is to accept a suspicious police officer interviewing Henry would ultimately become complicit in the ruse - but that's farce! Someone innocently being caught in sexually comprising situations is pretty standard fare in British farce, but I feel that it was slightly overdone in this play.

Bernard Cuffling and Tanja Dixon-Warren are perfect foils as the compliant neighbours. Cuffling in particular turns in a droll reading of the perpetually befuddled Vic. Dixon-Warren is the nexus between the bizarre and the believable. Dave Campbell is totally credible as a frustrated London cabbie who demonstrates that he might be the smartest person in the room.

Anna Hagan maintains a pace that barely allows the audience time to scrutinize such a tangled premise. Letting the audience enjoy the fun rather thinking too much about the plot is how a good farce should be.

© 2022 John Jane