Reviewed – 15th December 2017
“Blell is an extremely talented actor and made this somewhat confusing farce, a bit more enjoyable to watch.”
Matthew Parker’s hilarious, yet bizarre production of Thark begins with a lot of promise, but it soon becomes apparent that this is not the typical fast-paced farce, that one had hoped for. Poor accents, slow action and strange characters, were just some of the things that left me feeling rather disappointed. Set in the 1920s, Sir Hector Benbow (Mathijs Swarte) secretly intends to take his new lady friend, Cherry, (Isabella Hayward) out for dinner. However, this does not go accordingly to plan as his wife, Lady Benbow, (Charlotte Vassell) arrives home early and he, along with the help of his nephew Ronald, (Robin Blell) are left cleaning up the mess that Hector so foolishly has got himself into.
Just a few minutes into the show, Mathijs Swarte’s accent was very frustrating, as he would flitter between a very southern American accent, to a posh English accent. Robin Blell was by far the star of the show, as his accent was very impressive and he delivered an incredible performance that had great energy, and great charisma. One scene which tickled me the most, was when Ronald desperately tried to get Kitty’s (Natalia Lewis) attention, in hope that she would realise that he truly loves her and not Cherry. Having already presented a bunch of flowers to her and pretended to be choking on a phone wire, Kitty still refuses to listen to Ronald. Interestingly, what made this scene so laugh out loud funny, was Blell’s hilarious one-liners and great timing. Blell is an extremely talented actor and made this somewhat confusing farce, a bit more enjoyable to watch.
Soon after this, several of the characters suddenly began to do a rather random 1920s Charleston dance. Despite the dance being actually very good, it was very confusing and didn’t help move the narrative forward. To make things even more confusing, Act Two focused on ‘Thark,’ (the family home that is thought to be haunted), but ignored almost everything that happened in Act One. This made the whole production feel a bit disjointed as it would have been nice to have seen how the relationship developed between Hector and Lady Bowmen. The trouble is, Matthew Parker’s production was engaging, but it didn’t live up to my expectations, and I often found myself questioning a lot more as opposed to laughing.
What angered me the most was the ending. It finished too soon and didn’t make sense, as there was so much more that needed to be explored. The whole point of theatre is to tell a story and most stories have a beginning, middle and an end, but perhaps the cast and crew were in a rush, as this production had a beginning, middle but no end. Thus making this piece of theatre incomplete.
Overall, Matthew Parker’s production does have the potential to be a fantastic farce, but having a confusing plot and a terrible ending, was extremely frustrating to watch.
Reviewed by Jessica Brewer
Photography by lhphotoshots
is at the Drayton Arms Theatre until 6th January 2018
The Provoked Wife
The Hope Theatre
Reviewed – 7th September 2017
“sparkles with fun and mischief from start to finish”
What a lovely romp! This contemporary take on Restoration comedy sparkles with fun and mischief from start to finish. Hannah Boland Moore’s direction is spot on, weaving a world for the characters to inhabit with minimal set and props, and creating moments of true comic genius.
The play is perfectly cast, and there is not a weak link in the talented and energetic company, who are clearly having a lot of fun with this story of love, betrayal and scandal. They are so at home with the seventeenth century language that it is as natural as our everyday speech and doesn’t jar at all with the contemporary setting.
The play opens at a music festival, setting the scene for revelry and seduction. Will Kelly’s Sir John Brute has already had enough of marriage after only two years and he lets his poor wife know all about it. Kelly’s performance is assured and convincing, we wonder from very early in the play how his poor wife can bear him. Meg Coombs brings a mix of vulnerability and determination to her Lady Brute, her marriage is a mess and she is tempted by the attentions of Constant, a sweet young man who is in love with her.
Will she or won’t she? Will Hearle’s Constant is adorably tongue-tied when he sees the object of his affections, torn between honorable behaviour and the desire for his love. Into this mix enters Lady Fanciful, played with a wonderful vivacity and plentiful hair flicking by Jessie Lilly. She loves to stir up trouble and thinks herself the most beautiful woman in town. She is supported in this fancy by her french maid, Mademoiselle, Sophie Alexander, who fizzes with catty sycophancy. Constant’s friend, Heartfree, tries to school Lady Fanciful and swears he will never fall in love, but will he? It is Tim Gibson’s Heartfree who most embodies the glorious sense of mischief at the heart of the play. His eyes sparkle as he plots, and his energy and joie-de-vivre are infectious.
Conor Cook has the tricky task of being largely in the background for most of the action. When his character Lovewell steps out of the shadows he does a great job of unleashing chaos and trying to sort out the tangled web he has helped to weave. Lady Brute’s niece Belinda is a forthright young woman, played with cheeky effervescence by Claudia Campbell, and in her we, perhaps, see a critique of the way in which women were supposed to behave in late seventeenth century England, and sometimes still are, even today. She speaks her mind and is never punished for it. Quite the opposite in fact.
When Vanbrugh was writing this play women were still a novelty on stage and his female characters in this play show a desire to escape from the strictures of their proscribed roles. Lady Brute and Belinda are a delightful pair, and were first played by two of the first, highly celebrated actresses, Elizabeth Barry and Anne Bracegirdle.
I like to think that that indomitable pair would approve of this version of The Provoked Wife, with it’s faithfulness to the text and spirit of the original and it’s glorious contemporary relevance and fun.
Reviewed by Katre
Photography by Toby Lee
THE PROVOKED WIFE
is at The Hope Theatre until 23rd September