THARK by Ben Travers.
Directed by Matthew Parker.
In these grey, dreary days that seem to lack that bygone pre-Christmas sparkle go and get yourself a large, fizzy dollop of fun at the Drayton Arms this festive season. Thark by Ben Travers is a frothy cacophony of a farce and its players play it for all its camp worth. The mis-selling of the country seat Thark, the never ending cases of mistaken identity, and lots of rapid entering and exiting of doors.
Parker seems to have a Tardis spell amongst his magical theatre making tricks. He convinces us the relatively small space of the Drayton Arms Theatre is the expansive (and expensive) habitat of the very rich of the late 1920s. (He is Artistic Director of the North London multi- award winning Hope Theatre). This theatre magic is aided by a spare yet sumptuous design by Granville Saxton and the tip top detailed costume design by Bryony J. Thompson.
Farce is hard to pull off as it has to be immaculately timed, played large but not grotesquely and we the audience have to follow a complex plot. Thark has all these elements. I really appreciated the well disciplined physical performances, punctuated by deliciously timed punchlines, results achieved by a skilled director attuned to the movement and rhythm inherent in this Aldwych oldie.
There are some lovely performances. I particularly enjoyed the excellent portrayal of shop girl Cherry Buck (played with a chic vivacity by Isabella Hayward ) who finally manages to get herself engaged to Lionel Frush (a completely believable idiot played by Alexander Hopwood). I always enjoy skilful clowning and Robin Blell who plays the nephew Ronald Gamble has comic timing in spades.
There are several pleasing surprises in the second half and I left the theatre with a huge smile on my face. I went early in the run and all I would ask is that the pace went up a couple of gears. These are actors new to the profession and they all did their director proud.
Runs until January 6 2018
153 Old Brompton Road, London, Greater London, SW5 0LJ