“Have you ever met anyone who’s seen a ghost?
‘No; but I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t met someone who has…’”
Matthew Parker is best known as the Artistic Director of the Hope Theatre but this production of 1920s Aldwych farce Thark sees him go west, to the Drayton Arms pub theatre, a lovely fringe theatre adrift in a sea of luxury car dealerships. The show features a company of recent graduates from Drama Studio London where Parker teaches and marks his first directorial interjection into farce and what a fruity affair it is.
From the multiple slamming doors to its night-shirted shenanigans, horny aristocrats to hopeless romantics, the plot is a rightfully a proper trifle of a thing. Hector Benbow wants nothing more than to have dinner with his fancy piece, his nephew Ronny wants to declare his love for Kitty, his butler wants to get home to visit his new baby and none of them are prepared for the early return of his wife Lady Benbow.
The young company respond well to Parker’s clear-sighted direction which does a strong job of establishing the cat’s cradle of connections between all the characters in a hectic first act, whilst managing to not miss a single opportunity to make us smile and laugh with delight. There’s an inspired bit with some whisky glasses, every mention of the butler’s name (Hoooo-oooook!), the gorgeous detail of Bryony J Thompson’s costumes and in a most agreeable interlude, a charleston sequence to a swinging remix of ‘Crazy in Love’.
And some of the cast show signs of being excellent farceurs. Robin Blell has the physical comedy down to a tee and his huge expressiveness is a constant delight, Isabella Hayward’s Cherry Buck has a wonderfully self-possessed air to her that is most easy to watch, and Sophia Lorenti does well with a pair of contrasting retainers. The second half isn’t perhaps quite as sharp as we move into a haunted house and the hit rate doesn’t land quite as often as before the interval, there’s still a frightfully good time to be had.
Running time: 2 hours
Booking until 6th January