Love and Money, Young Vic Theatre, London

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Bit by bit, the rebuilt Young Vic – “young, gifted & back”, as it describes itself – is opening up. Its second theatre, the Maria, is a handsome replacement for the old Young Vic Studio: taller, deeper and light years better furnished, with excellent sightlines and acoustics and flexible, comfortable seating.

At first, in Dennis Kelly’s one-act Love and Money, we seem to be watching completely unconnected scenes, and we watch them as sociological studies. How does personal love (husband for wife, parents for daughter, ex-girlfriend-cum-employer for new employee) intersect with the financial pressures of modern living? Only at the end of the third scene, shockingly, do we see that this is all one story: moving back in time, like Pinter’s Betrayal, with sudden, sometimes very funny, insights into people’s younger and more innocent selves.

The play is haunted by its first scene, in which a lonely man gradually relates the story of his wife, who, swamped by £70,000 of debt, took her own life. Yet, having started with present despair, it ends in past hope.

Kelly’s style is deliberately slick, with many of the intervening scenes delivered straight out to us, with characters often finishing each others’ sentences, analysing that state they’re in, delivering sociology as some kind of smart sales pitch. We’re seldom allowed to feel the poignancy of the situation, and that’s the point: this is a world where financial pressures keep our private emotions at bay.

Matthew Dunster directs, and Anna Fleischle’s designs perfectly express the suspense and slickness of the play, with many smart revelations hidden within their blank-looking walls.

There are six actors, all very good. Unfairly to the others, I single out just two: the immensely attractive Kellie Bright for her pathos as the eventually suicidal wife, and the riveting, impish Claudie Blakley. Nowhere is the play more enthralling than in leading them both back to different versions of naivety. Blakley, who is pitch-perfect, is a sly manipulator at first – but we’re shown how she was once manipulated in her turn.

Tel +44 20 7928 6363

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