If a quarter of a million pounds poured forth from a cleft in the sky, with a time limit of one week in which to spend them, what would you do? Donate swaths of money to charity in aid of the needy? Buy a mansion with a tennis court and a swimming pool? Or purchase small bags of sweets for £20 a pop to support the next generation of entrepreneurs? This is exactly the dilemma faced by siblings Lucy and Emily Cunningham (originally Anthony and Damian) in Burnley Youth Theatre’s hilarious production of “Millions”.
Exploring the “more, more, more” culture consuming children today, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s novel and screenplay follows schoolgirls Emily and Lucy who discover £250,000 following a botched robbery. Grieving for her mother, Emily, who sees the money as a gift from God, is torn between spending and donating it.
Director Philip J. Hindle put together a clever production that captured the emptiness left behind by loss. What’s more, this excellent production depicted the tension of the original story between the promises of love and fulfilment associated with material wealth, and the emptiness and destruction that respectively endures and ensues. While comedy took centre stage, the bare setting was cleverly juxtaposed against the themes of money and greed, as the director himself explains, allowing this sense of emptiness to yawn throughout the theatre. The production’s minimal staging thus acted as a continual reminder that material wealth is no substitute for love.
Both leading actresses showed an impressive understanding of the distorted world view of their character as a result of Mrs Cunningham’s death.
Drawing on Emily’s unworldly charm, Kayley Lonsdale gave a terrific performance of a saint-obsessed child plagued by shell-shock and scrupulosity, believing in a black-and-white world ordered by God, where the bad are abandoned and the good are supported. She revealed a character who is anxious to bring order to the chaos of bereavement, who not only believes the money is a gift from God as means to help the poor but who also hopes for the sanctification of her mother.
Io Limmer gave a hilarious performance as Lucy, a child genius in real estate with a fluency in the adult language of trade, profit and abominable tax. But the actress also captured with great skill the vulnerability lying beneath this posture of worldliness, depicting a lonely child attempting to bury her grief in immeasurable friendships traded for with money.
Superb performances also came from the supporting cast, demonstrating the wealth of talent in the theatre group: Lewis Pugh, Charlotte Smith, Maddie Page, Abigail Graham, Daisie Edgerley, Billie Kenyon, Amelia Standing, Lucy Kilgallon, Teala Lynas, Natalie Fenn, Carrie McGowan, James Day, Liam Cavanagh, Luke Gardiner, Jack England, Toni McCarney, Adam Uttley, Catherine Paterson and Matthew Barnett.
Acknowledgments must also go to the production team for a fantastic show.
If you want costumes that dazzle, a stage that revolves and a setting that transports you to a fantastical forest, then this would not have been the show for you. Rather, the production was a fine example of laugh-out-loud comedy with dark currents simmering beneath, delivered by actors with skill beyond their years.