Farce is at the same time both rumbustious and fragile. The fun never lets up, but that seeming non-stop careering from one daft situation to the next requires split-level timing. Above all, to be truly, mercilessly rib-cracking, the actors must be absolutely deadpan. They must never let us - the audience - see that they're in on the joke.
Ray Cooney's Funny Money is now 12 years old, and it's worn well. Where this production by Ian Dickens with Giles Watling comes unstuck is by updating it to 2006. The social and sexual attitudes on which so much of the comedy depends aren't exactly those of now, well into the 21st century.
I don't want to give too much of the plot away, in case you've never seen it before. But the lynchpin of the action is mild accountant Henry Perkins (David Callister) who has picked up the wrong briefcase on his way home to a birthday dinner party. No prizes for guessing what's in the bag, or how this windfall affects him!
Sucked into the mayhem are Henry's wife Jean (Sally Ann Matthews), two policemen – good cop (John Altman) and bad cop (Chris Ellison) - a taxi driver (Terry O'Sullivan) and the Perkins' best friends Betty and Vic Johnson (Vicki Michelle and Peter Blake). Not to mention a complete stranger (Aaron Bixley).
The pace never lets up and the cast throws itself into the whirl with gusto and some impeccable timing of the visual gags; Callister's face on his first entrance is a study in how to communicate glee, greed and an ineffable sense of "this isn't happening to little me, is it?"
Too much of the dialogue seems to be directed straight out to the audience rather than to the characters on stage, and there's a tendency for everyone to stand in a straight line for much of the time. But it's only fair to add that the Norwich audience loved it all, and perhaps you will too.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich)