Theatre Review – Tons of Money

Apr 12 2010 | By More

Verity Simpson and Ed Ellis as Louise and Aubrey Allington. Photo Stefan Heumann

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St Ninian’s Hall

By Thom Dibdin
Fun and frothy, Edinburgh Theatre Arts’ new production of Tons of Money might have been a little frazzled around the edges at last night’s opening performance – but this is a company who knows exactly when to ignore the hiccups and get on with the show.

Adapted by Alan Ayckbourn from a 1920s farce, Tons of Money features all the unlikely twists and turns you would hope for as it uses human foibles to play merry fun with pure slapstick, comic moments.

Louise and Aubrey Allington are a pair of wastrel socialites, living on credit as they float around their country mansion with servants Simpson and Sprules at their beck and call. Aubrey dabbles in inventing, but only in an artistic kind of a way, and if a miracle doesn’t happen, they are on the verge of being declared bankrupt.

Not that Verity Simpson’s earnest but flighty Louise and Ed Ellis’ loopy Aubrey seem to care one jot. Although, when Chesterman, a London lawyer, comes down with news  of the death of a rich relative, the greedy side of both of them comes out as they begin to realise the enormity of their windfall.

Edith Peers as Simpson and John McLinden as Sprules. Photo Stefan Heumann

John McLinden is solid as the butler, Sprules, although his accent does wander a bit when his character is allowed to drop out of butler mode. It is Edith Peers as the maid, Simpson, who really attracts in the opening scenes. Based on a truthful portrayal of the split personality for above and below stairs, Peers’ performance is shot through with great comic moments and observations.

Theirs is only the background comedy for the production, however, as the Allington’s concoct Aubrey’s demise by explosion – and then his return as his own long-lost relative George Maitland. Who, crucially, will inherit on Aubrey’s death – cutting out those pesky creditors and leaving them free to get back together again.

They haven’t reckoned with Louise’s best pal, Jean Everard, however. If Suzie Le Morvan doesn’t make her quite as ditzy as she might be from the start, she’s soon swooning and falling for any hunk who looks like her ex-lunk at the twirl of a large bushy beard.

As the questions over which George Maitland is the real one begin to mount up – and all those carefully set-up scenes fall into perfect place, so the whole production goes into rolling laughter mode. David McCallum and Michael Ferguson both put in great performances – but is either of them really George? What ever Jean says, she can’t tell.

The key to this production’s success is that under Iain Kerr’s direction the audience do, in fact, know much more than the characters. The pleasure comes from the anticipation of seeing those comedic mistakes before they arrive – and the satisfaction when the company play them out quite straight.

A pleasurable evening from a company who know how to let the comedy of a cracking script make its own laughter, without forcing things too much.

Run ends Saturday 17 April

Edinburgh Theatre Arts website

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