Thark review at Park Theatre London
“Fancy a quickie just to rock you off?”, enquires Clive Francis’s Sir Hector Benbow, as James Dutton’s Ronnie Gamble (his nephew) joins him in the bed they’re sharing for the night. No, we’re not in Joe Orton territory here, but the rather more innocent comic universe of Ben Travers – one of strange manners, even stranger mannerisms and the strangest happenings in the middle of the night that are still weirder than that invitation.
The play is equal parts Ray Cooney sex farce and Haunted House comedy, but unfortunately it doesn’t come to the boil as fully as it might in Eleanor Rhode’s unevenly cooked production. Thark at the Park should be a lark, but the acting style is often too broad to redeem the frequently laboured comedy.
The honourable exception is James Dutton, who brings an air of sustained befuddlement and hilarious panic to the nephew, fiercely trying to scramble to cover his would-be philandering uncle’s invitation to a South Molton Street shop girl to come to dinner from his dragon aunt, and meanwhile arousing the suspicions of his own fiancee.
There’s a likably innocent and quaint charm to the escalating tide of comic panic that ensues, but the distinctive rhythms required to keep these balls in the air are not always caught by a cast who follow Clive Francis’s lead in giving it more bluster than bite.
Park Theatre, London, August 21-September 22
- Ben Travers (adapted by Clive Francis)
- Eleanor Rhode
- Snapdragon Productions, Damian Arnold
- Clive Francis, James Dutton, John Wark, Sarah-Jayne Butler, Lucy May Barker, Richard Beanland, Mary Keegan, Claire Cartwright, Jaonna Wake, Andrew Jarvis
- Running time