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Raising Martha, Park Theatre, review: ‘Revolves around Tom Bennett and Joey Fry’s rapport’

PUBLISHED: 17:00 17 January 2017

Joel Fry and Tom Bennet in Raising Martha at the Park Theatre. Picture: Darren Bell

Joel Fry and Tom Bennet in Raising Martha at the Park Theatre. Picture: Darren Bell

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David Spicer’s new dark comedy has sex, slapstick and silly behaviour performed by an outstanding cast with a collective CV spanning Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Phone Shop

Raising Martha sounds like the heart-warming tale of a tortured young girl evacuated to the countryside during World War Two into the care of a gruff couple who, despite initial reservations, form a special and unbreakable bond. Basically Goodnight Mister Tom mark II.

Not even close. The theme of David Spicer’s new dark comedy is animal rights related grave robbery gone wrong. Gerry (Stephen Boxer) has locked himself in his family home slash ex-frog farm as a result of relentless attacks from activists, when Jeff Rawle’s village Inspector, arrives to tell him and his brother Roger (Julian Bleach) that their mother has been kidnapped.

Well, most of her. Animal rights activists Jago and Marc have dug her up, haplessly leaving behind a library card and a femur. They hope to blackmail Gerry and Roger into selling the house, which Gerry has now transformed into a toad sweat infused cannabis farm. As you can imagine, chaos and confusion ensues.

There’s sex, slapstick and a lot of silly behaviour performed by a truly outstanding cast with a collective CV spanning Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Phone Shop and Drop the Dead Donkey.

Tom Bennett (responsible for the hysteria in Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship) gets the special recognition award for his portrayal of Marc, who isn’t quite sure what he’s gotten himself into. His rapport with Joel Fry’s Jago, the passionate but inactive “leader”, forms the axis around which the play revolves.

Michael Fentiman’s direction is wonderful but it is the script that takes Raising Martha to another plane, namely Spicer’s clever use of wordplay. Each second induces either a guffaw or a grin.

A farce such as this is fertile ground for obvious jokes, but it is the mark of a true artist that he plucks and presents them at just the right time to garner maximum appreciation. You laugh immediately, thinking: “I should have seen that one coming.”

There’s no weak link in this star-studded cast who deliver every gag with precision.

A must-see.

Rating: 4/5 stars


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