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Review: Thark, Park Theatre, Finsbury Park

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:00 30 August 2013

Thark is at the Park Theatre, N4, until September 22. Picture by Ben Broomfield

Thark is at the Park Theatre, N4, until September 22. Picture by Ben Broomfield

benbroomfield.com

It is 86 years since Thark premièred in 1927, and it says a great deal about Ben Travers’ ear for dialogue and wicked sense of humour that for most of the 100 minutes or so of the play, the audience was hooting with laughter.

Like all of the best farces, there’s a country house – Thark. It’s being sold to a Mrs Frush who becomes concerned that it might be haunted. The only way to disprove the rumour is for the entire cast to spend a night there.

The central character is the monocled, tweed suited, waist-coated Sir Hector Benbow. Despite his advanced years he is a spry and predatory sort of cove with an eye for young ladies and a gift for devising cunning wheezes to inveigle them into his clutches.

But not all is well in has latest campaign to lure shop girl Cherry Buck (played perfectly by Lucy May Barker) to certain ruin. We are in classic Travers territory –early wifely arrivals home, mistaken identities and bungling butlers.

All the other characters are there too – a dippy maid, Benbow’s knowing wife, two representatives of “new money” (who offer the old money the chance to slather on snobbery with a nine-inch brush) and a couple of bright young things. And of course, the crepuscular butler Jones (not his real name, but you’ll have to see the play to find out more!)

Travers gives all of them some fine lines and meaty characters but allows the double act of older cad (Clive Francis’ Benbow who has perfected a blend of Leslie Phillips and Sir Henry at Rawlinson’s End) and cad minor (Ronny Gamble played with more than a hint of Hugh Laurie’s Jeeves by the wonderful James Dutton) to dominate. They are, at times, both co-operating and in competition while perusing their nefarious ambitions for the young gals that flit in and out of the action.

It was impossible to find fault with Eleanor Rhode’s joyous direction. The costumes were perfect, the set, sound and lighting spot on. All this allowed a first class ensemble to deliver one of the funniest and happiest nights for the 200 lucky people who went to Finsbury Park’s newest venue last Friday evening.

There is no excuse not to go. Until 22 September.

*****STARS


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