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After Money
Published on Thursday, 12 May 2011

3.5 stars

Regency Town House (venue website)
7-8, 13-14, 20-22, 27-30 May, 6:00pm-7:15pm, 8:00pm-9:15pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 World Premiere.

A disgraced MP lies dying, haunted by the voices of those he has wronged.  The scandals are all over now; the women he's lain with remain only in his mind; and he's forever beyond the reach of justice, the justice he eluded so many times. Perhaps he repents, or perhaps he doesn't care.  But one thing is sure - it's all about the money.

It could have happened just yesterday, but as we cross the threshold of this genuine regency townhouse, a cacophony of voices transports us back to 1944. It's a thrillingly dislocating opening, which thrusts us right into the business end of a classic crime thriller - yet the question isn't whodunnit or even why, but what chain of events could have brought us here.

The fading grandeur of the townhouse is a nice metaphor for our anti-hero, modelled on real-life socialist playboy Sir Leo Chiozza Money. Flashbacks recall his Pygmalion-like conversion from Italian immigrant to firebrand intellectual, and run farcically through his many mistresses, portrayed by his dying mind as a parade of cheery nymphomaniacs. Yet - for all his misogyny - it's a poignant monologue from the wife he left behind which finally brings him to his knees.

Wired Theatre make good use of their space, with a well-conceived prelude in the townhouse's cramped hallway before we head upstairs to the drawing room. There are charming, telling period details and a clever parallel with the work of Machiavelli, who the play suggests had more than a passing influence on Money's life. Some of his delusions, though, grow rather random; the prim ladies doing a sedate flapper dance are funny enough to get away with it, but the ventriloquist's puppet as a police sergeant was too much of a distraction for me.

All the same, this was a rewarding piece, which plucks an intriguing detail from history and plants it firmly in the local soil. As I stepped back out into elegant Brunswick, a lady in a stole and a man in a tuxedo sang a song of farewell from the first-floor window... and I wondered what else had happened behind these townhouse doors.

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