Raising Martha at Park Theatre
British humour is like no other and Raising Martha is quintessential Monty Python-style wackiness: a detective story about frenzied grave-robbing animal activists, marijuana-growing, toad-tasting loonies, large humanoid frogs, plots and twists and general mayhem. A melding of traditional English farce and cutting-edge theatre, the play is a macabre comedy of oddballs and errors. Written by David Spicer and directed by Michael Fentiman, the well chosen cast – all notable television, film and stage actors – truly bring this piece to life with consummate comedic flair.
Jeff Rawle delightfully portrays Inspector Clout, a classic but tongue-in-cheek, irreverent and corrupt police detective. Stephan Boxer is brilliantly insane and perverse as Gerry, a frog farmer who converses with imaginary six foot amphibians and is perpetually high on toad venom-laced marijuana. His brother Roger’s dour expression and morbid conviction that he murdered his own mother is perfectly characterised by Julian Bleach. Joel Fry and Tom Bennett are convincing as kooky, desperate anti-vivisection terrorists Jago and Marc, and Gwyneth Keyworth is effective as their duplicitous object of affection, Caro.
In an ongoing effort to rescue Gerry’s frogs, animal advocates Jago and Marc have stolen his mother Martha’s long-buried bones. Gerry and Roger’s frog establishment conceals quantities of marijuana plants and Inspector Clout frequently pops in at unexpected moments, causing startled panic. With irony and slapstick irreverence, craziness and violent outbursts, the work is pure silliness and yet appears to be quite cynical about human nature, concluding that we are creatures devoid of moral purpose, with only greed as motivation. Even Jago’s intense devotion to annimals betrays sardonic hints of perversion.
The strikingly unusual space at the Park Theatre is a perfect location for this production, for which the highly innovative and offbeat double-storey staging (Rebecca Brower) combines two simultaneous settings: the frog farmers’ home and, above, Martha’s grave, all enhanced by skillful, stunning lighting (Elliot Griggs). The circle seats allow an excellent view of the entire show, while the stall spectators have a limited view of the upper tier but can clearly see the actors at close range.
The success of a production can be determined by the reaction of its audience, and Raising Martha has viewers laughing throughout and cheering at curtain call.
Raising Martha is at Park Theatre from 12th January until 11th February 2017, for further information or to book visit here.