The Independent London Newspaper


THEATRE: Animal rights are no joke in Raising Martha

Gwyneth Keyworth in Raising Martha. Photo: Darren Bell

Gwyneth Keyworth in Raising Martha. Photo: Darren Bell

Published: 30 January, 2017

at Park Theatre 200

DAVID Spicer’s new comedy, Raising Martha, encompasses animal welfare, human remains, familial squabbles, a corrupt copper and six-foot frogs, but favours quick laughs over a meaningful plot. 

Gerry (Stephen Boxer) and Roger Duffy (Julian Bleach) are targeted by animal rights activists Jago (Joel Fry) and Marc (Tom Bennett), who want them to close their family’s frog farm. In an attempt to blackmail the two brothers they dig up the bones of their dead mother, Martha. 

Unbeknown to them, Jerry is now using the farm to grow marijuana, which he laces with the venom of cane toads.

Inspector Clout (Jeff Rawle) is keen to discover the whereabouts of Martha’s bones, but has ulterior motives for solving the crime and Roger’s duplicitous daughter Caro (Gwyneth Keyworth) is busy manipulating all those close to her for her own ends.

The jokes come thick and fast but unfortunately only a few are genuinely funny – one where Caro suggests she will self-harm if Daddy doesn’t do what she wants is particularly tasteless.

Michael Fentiman’s production is furiously paced and the actors give it their all, but Raising Martha never fully ignites. 

Spicer exploits the baser elements of farce with bawdy jokes, clichéd characters and Punch and Judy violence. However, he neglects to explore the serious side of vivisection and factory farming which would have given heft to the show. 

Some may enjoy the relentless slapstick humour, but this reviewer was left cold. 

Until February 11
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