If you are looking for some belly laughs between now and the 22nd of April, look no further. Funny Money by Ray Cooney is being presented at The Pavilion Theatre by the talented folks from Castle Hill Players. The money is funny, the play is funny and this production has the audience laughing out loud quite a lot. There is something for everyone in this: a hectic pace, comedic timing, sight gags, too many briefcases and eight distinctly different characters.
The play is set entirely in the protagonist’s home in Fulham, England and the set design by Julian Badman is nothing short of spectacular. There are five different entrance and exit options, all aesthetically different, which allow for the farce but also add to the beauty of the scene. If there was ever a slow point in the action, which there wasn’t, the audience could easily fill the void by admiring the interior decoration.
In summary, Henry Perkins (Ben Freeman) has picked up the wrong briefcase on the journey home and is now happily in the possession of a very large sum of money. He downs a few drinks in excitement before rushing home to inform his wife Jean (Vanessa Henderson). Freeman is flawless throughout as he delivers a seemingly endless amount of dialogue and drives the pace for the entire play. Henderson moves at a slower pace as she gets increasingly drunk but this provides a nice counterpoint for the frantic energy of Freeman.
The arrival of Policeman Davenport (Ben Wheeler) sends the couple into a spin and a succession of lies start a domino effect. Billie the cab driver (Deb Lewis) enters and the nonsense escalates. Wheeler is appropriately smug as a corrupt copper and Lewis has all of the attitude of an impatient cabbie.
The late arrival of invited guests only makes the situation even more fraught. The newcomers Betty (Leigh Scanlon) and her husband Vic (Stephen Snars), who have come over for Henry’s birthday dinner have no idea what they have walked into. Scanlon is effervescent with excitement when she gets wind of what’s afoot and Snars plays the somewhat more conservative and less deviant Vic very successfully. Again, the contrast in liveliness between the spouses makes for a believable match.
When Slater (Daisy Alexis) the law-abiding copper joins the chaos, the stage is now akin to a circus. There are constant comings and goings, name changes and convoluted relationships created on the spot in an attempt to distract the constabulary from the truth. Alexis is fabulous. In the eleventh hour a passer-by enters for a brief appearance but Constance Halstead did what she could with those five minutes.
Does Henry manage to keep any or all of the money? Will any of them find their happily-ever-after? One thing is for sure … Director Julian Floriano has assembled a talented cast here and has done a great job with this material in his directorial debut with this group. The pace doesn’t stop, the laughs keep coming and we did indeed leave the theatre feeling better than when we walked in.
Catch Funny Money while you can. 9.5 briefcases out of 10.
Photographer: Chris Lundie