Theatre, Off-West End
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  • 2 out of 5 stars
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 (© Ben Broomfield)
© Ben Broomfield

Clive Francis and James Dutton

 (© Ben Broomfield)
© Ben Broomfield

Clive Francis and James Dutton

 (© Ben Broomfield)
© Ben Broomfield

James Dutton and John Wark

 (© Ben Broomfield)
© Ben Broomfield

May Keegan, Joanna Wake, Clive Francis, Andrew Jarvis, James Dutton, Sarah-Jayne Butler, John Wark

 (© Ben Broomfield)
© Ben Broomfield

Lucy May Barker

 (© Ben Broomfield)
© Ben Broomfield

Claire Cartwright and James Dutton

If you want sex, swearing or Simon Stephens plays you’re better off looking around your local bingo hall than the new Park Theatre: since opening a few months ago its main house has played host to a determinedly chintzy series of crowd-pleasers.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially when we’re talking about something as entertaining as this jolly revival of Ben Travers’s hugely successful 1927 farce.

Though given a tweak here and there by Clive Francis, the principle joy of Eleanor Rhodes’s revival is how unreconstructed it all is – ‘Thark’ is as preposterous a comedy as you’ll ever see. In it, lecherous old duffer Sir Hector Benbow (a splendid turn from Francis himself) accidentally arranges to have an intimate supper with three different women. So far, so farce, but this all unexpectedly gives way to something bizarrely reminiscent of an episode of ‘Scooby Doo’, as the entire gang decamps to the titular haunted house. It makes very little sense plot-wise, but as farce it ticks along like clockwork, and certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Given a big budget West End production and the weight of expectations, ‘Thark’ would flounder. One doesn’t so much admire – or even laugh – at the play itself, so much as enjoy it as a nicely crafted period curio, like a joke that we’re all in on with the cast, who attack it with well-drilled chutzpah.

But this sort of unselfconsciously daft endeavour is a big part of our theatre heritage, and this small scale revival makes for a pleasurable rehabilitation of sorts.

By Andrzej Lukowski


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Jasmine Cole

This was okay. The set was clever and the costumes were beautiful. The lightning effects were good and most of the acting was strong. Unfortunately, there isn't much else to praise. Farce needs to make you laugh out loud to be effective, but the only time I laughed was when my Dad's chair in the middle of the second half and he swore very loudly. I understand that farce doesn't need a clever plot to work, but when it's also not funny the complete lack of structure to the play really causes a problem. I'm glad I went. It was nice to see the theatre and I wasn't bored, but I also wouldn't recommend it. For a play that claims to be "rip-roaring," I was left sadly disappointed.

Emma Brady

Great new north London venue - but not sure what to make of Thark at Park Theatre in Finsbury Park. Enjoyed the set, loved the costumes and a strong acting comes the but..... Everyone has a tricky relationship with farce and especially period farce (this play was written in the 1920's). However, there is exquisite pleasure in laughing until your sides split and gasping for your share of oxygen when the script is strong and the actors succeed in getting the audience to let go of their senses! Unfortunately this is rare and doesn't happen with Thark. I was left feeling amused at times - even charmed-but it isn't enough. Without the belly laughs one starts to search for something else - like a plot. I was hopeful in the second act that the haunted house setting might start to do the trick - I so wanted a laugh, but no, there was a flicker and then a fizzle. The special effects delivered crashing windows in a storm and even a ghost and then.....there was clapping and the play had finished. I was so shocked that I had missed the denouement and any sense of resolution that I almost asked my neighbour 'Has it finished? Surely there's another act?' It wasn't a dead evening but a congenial gathering - a reflection of the Edwardian doings on the stage.