Other People’s Money
Reviewed – 23rd April 2019
“Lin Blakley stole the show as Bea Sullivan”
Blue Touch Paper Productions present Jerry Sterner’s 1989 drama-comedy with style and credence as audiences find out what men and women of all shapes, sizes and classes can do with Other People’s Money.
Touching base at a time when America is clawing its way back from the precipice of bankruptcy, we meet a coasting, family-run wire and cable company in New England who are about to have their business acumen and their morality tested by Wall Street tough guy Lawrence Garfinkle, a.k.a. Larry the Liquidator (Rob Locke). Friendly, neighbourhood business owner Andrew Jorgenson (Michael Brandon) and his company manager William Coles (Mark Rose) seek help from Jorgy’s secretary/no nonsense lawyer Kate Sullivan (Amy Burke) when Larry’s interest starts to cost more than smiles and doughnuts.
Director Katherine Farmer and designer Emily Leonard carefully align two contrasting offices opposite each other in traverse staging. The raked seating that straddles the stage allows the audience to spectate, jury-like as Garfinkle and Jorgenson play corporate hard ball on a sneakily camouflaged, faded tennis court flooring. As well as creating a cold, war room atmosphere, the confidently selected set throws into relief the essence of the two armies; the rich versus the poor. The modern, sleek, uncluttered desk of a tycoon facing down the, honest, simple hardwood workstation of a man’s livelihood.
Interestingly, it is easy to tell when the actors enjoy the scenes; Larry and Kate, though initially struggling to find each of their character’s presence on stage, give us a fun flavour of their chemistry together in the later scenes. However, the writing is wordy and difficult to navigate if you do not have a calculator for a brain or actors who liven up the figures.
Lin Blakley stole the show as Bea Sullivan, Jorgy’s steadfast secretary with a shining soul. Through her candid, controlled performance the audience are able to access the heart and true value of what family can mean in a company like theirs. Her relatable characterisation marries comedic timing and fierce emotion so easily making her a pleasure to watch and a home comfort to hold onto in the world of money madness.
This production successfully leads us to believe that the corporate world is killer, which begs the question: is it even possible for good people to do good business?
Reviewed by Vivienne King
Photography by Craig Sugden
Other People’s Money
Southwark Playhouse until 11th May
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Other Place
Reviewed – 24th September 2018
“the moderate dynamics throughout jar with the harrowing threads of the story”
Neurologist, Juliana Smithton, is successful and self-assured but while presenting her recent work – treatment for dementia – to a group of specialists, she becomes distracted. Karen Archer’s strong performance portrays a Juliana fighting to deny the signs of illness and come to an acceptance of the past. Scratching the surface, we discover a vulnerability disguised as assertiveness and then, as the layers peel away, we begin to understand her fragility. ‘The Other Place’ is not just about dementia. It also depicts what, when and how we remember and the relationships it affects.
Sharr White’s writing is cleverly structured to follow Juliana’s state of mind from confusion to calm. The fragmentary scenes of the first part which mirror her illusion, disillusion and reality lead to her refuge in ‘the other place’, her childhood house, where she feels secure among her memories. The make-up of the story, however, is less well shaped. Dementia and its life-changing consequences for everyone involved is already a distressing situation. Adding a tortuous family tragedy to illustrate the entanglement of her thoughts undermines the poignancy; the loose ends ensuing from that part of the story leave us curious as to the uncharacteristic behaviour of the parents towards their daughter. Heavy-handed humour comes across as deliberate light relief rather than naturally through personality and the whole play wraps up just a little too neatly.
In contrast to Juliana’s hostile accusations and frustrated forgetfulness, Neil McCaul, as Ian, gives us some moving moments as a husband trying to cope with the wife he loves and whose familiarity is disappearing, though his behaviour towards her is, at times, oddly blasé. In supporting roles Eliza Collings draws three well-defined characters who challenge Juliana in different ways and Rupinda Nagra has a reassuring presence on stage in contrast to the surrounding disquiet. Claire van Kampen astutely directs this experienced cast with a focus on Juliana’s puzzle of past and present but the moderate dynamics throughout jar with the harrowing threads of the story and the interpretation feels underplayed in relation to the language of the script.
The simplicity of the stylish wooden set (Jonathan Fensom) is perfect for the comings and goings of the action and as a backdrop for Paul Russell’s classy lighting design. Beautifully inventive and atmospheric, it works in conjunction with the creativity of the sound (John Leonard) to paint the scenes. With a strong technical flair alongside confident performances, touches of drama and humour, food for thought and an ending full of hope, ‘The Other Place’ brings to the Park Theatre, a piece of good, intellectual entertainment.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Mark Douet
The Other Place
Park Theatre until 20th October
Reviewed this year at the Park Theatre