Raising Martha, Park Theatre

Raising Martha is a production that has been hit by various casting changes, firstly Morgana Robinson was replaced by Game of Throne’s Gwyneth Keyworth and in a less high profile change Jasper Britton was replaced by Stephen Boxer. The production hasn’t suffered for it. David Spicer’s pieces about animal rights activists who target the dead mother of the current owners is funny, energetic and understands what being a stage comedy is all about.

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Boxer, Rawle and Bleach (c) Darren Bell

Detective Clout (some comedy gravitas from Jeff Rawle, famous for his role in Drop the Dead Donkey) investigates the disappearance of Martha Duffy, dead for five years she has been dug up by animal rights activists Marc (Tom Bennett) and Jago (Joel Fry) and estranged brothers Gerry, the hippie one played by Stephen Boxer and Roger, the drunken one, played by Julian Bleach are forced to reunite over the ransom demands regarding their frog and toad farm, especially as Gerry now has a side business combining cane toad extract and cannabis. The problem is neither brother really liked Martha when she was alive but Roger’s concern is his spoiled and indulged daughter, Caro (Keyworth).

There’s lot of great performances, all have great comic timing. I was particularly amazed by Boxer, an actor I associate with serious works and who reminds me John Hurt, who was fantastic as the stoned, lonely Gerry and worked really well with Bleach. It will be Rawle as Detective Clout will get all the accolades, it feels as though the role was written for him as he gets Clout’s misplaced confidence, as he stumbles around, just right.

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Bennett & Fry (c) Darren Bell

Most importantly it is a comedy that is actually funny but the story doesn’t have much depth and it could be argued that as a stage comedy it doesn’t need to dig too deeply. Spicer, who I will disclose I know from Twitter, is clearly an experienced writer who had put characters over a overly detailed story but I suspect it will divide its audience. Spicer attempts to aim jokes at all ages but 6 foot frogs, extended sex scenes and hallucinations will probably not go down well with Park’s surprisingly traditional audiences.

As creative piece it is stunning, Michael Fentiman as director has really understood Spicer’s work and isn’t afraid to attempt the tone and pace throughout. Rebecca Brower’s set, looking like the toad tank, is simple especially in the context that there are only two locations on stage; a grave and a sofa doubling up as both the Duffy brothers and the animal rights activists’ bases. Oddly as all the critics muttered about our placing in the circle it became clear that these are probably the best seats for this role (with my cheap seat hat on, probably much cheaper than the stalls)

It should be a hit, lack of big names may hinder that, but it has very much benefitted from its sudden casting changes with this group of actors who have fantastic chemistry.

 

Raising Martha, produced by Tom Connell and Michael James Cox, is on until 11 February at Park 200

Swing by Around 8 – Theatre N16

As the lights go down, the iTunes playlist starts. Setting the table and dancing around, it’s a typical pre-dinner-party scene. But this is no normal dinner party.

In this Ayckbourn-type comedy, we meet Matt and Katherine, a couple who have found the light has gone out in their relationship. In an attempt to bring back the spark and passion, they decide to have a dinner party. However, this is no ordinary dinner party. Very soon it becomes clear that what we believed was an innocent evening is in fact… A Swingers Party. However, just to add more confusion, Matt and Katherine don’t know if their guests know where the night is headed…

Cue hilarity, confusion, awkward silences and a whole lot of wine. Soon we are just as confused as them. Do they actually know? With glimpses into Matt and Katherine’s private conversations, we are left to wonder and guess when it comes to Amelia and Elliot. One minute they seem on the same page, the next, who knows?

A brilliantly British play where everyone tries to sidestep the elephant in the room!  Hosted at Theatre N16 and The Bedford Pub, you’ll have a great night in a creative atmosphere, where actors and musicians will surround you at the bar before heading up to the lovely and intimate black-box-type theatre for an entertaining hour. Though the play is short, it’s packed it to the brim to ensure you’ll be laughing till the very end.

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GMc

Lee & Omar: We are All Idiots, New Wimbledon Studio, 26 May

A sketch preview, which seemed unsuited to its surroundings.

I’ve visited, and mostly enjoyed, following the second Illuminate Festival at New Wimbledon Studio. There’s been hits, there’s been misses but I’ve always felt there was a consistent theme-showcasing small theatre producers who wouldn’t get attention elsewhere but having what it is an Edinburgh preview feels at odds with the rest of the festival.

Firstly I keep my toe in live comedy and I have never heard of Lee & Omar, in fact when you google them you get a link to the show I saw on May 26, as a result their bit in the beginning about being unprepared is genuinely terrifying rather than endearing because you have no idea what you have let yourself in for. It just doesn’t work in a theatre space either and feels like it should have been tried out in London’s many rooms above pubs

I’ve made it sound like the worst show ever but Lee and Omar have great chemistry, their sketches are well thought through, if overlong (I enjoyed the one about being a Muslim) and their audience interaction tone is spot on but I don’t feel they are ready for Edinburgh yet. It feels like they should have done more shows in London and had a decent web presence before even considering spending a month, and a lot of money, to go up to what is still a very competitive market.

 

Lee and Omar: We Are All Idiots is on at The Mash House as part of the Edinburgh Festival https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/event/578853-omar-and-lee-present-we-are-all-idiots/ 4-28 August