By Gerald Moon.
The Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP to 28 March 2020.
Mon – Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu 3.15pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7070 0876.
Review: William Russell 5 March.
Were this production at the end of a pier I would jump off. The players work hard, there are clearly laughs in plenty – the plot is the one about identical twins, one of whom wishes to murder the other and take their place – and some of the jokes worked in spite of everything. But miscasting simply ruins what is a celebrated farce and several hiding the body jokes just don’t work – if the body is not actually dead then bits of it falling out of its hiding places at awkward moments are only there for the laugh. And that kills the laugh.
Farce has to be played at speed and it has to be played for truth. The dilemma of the leading character has to be one of desperation so that he or she is driven to yet new lies to get out of their latest predicament each one of which creates a new problem to be solved. Just rushing about is not the answer. Tom York, who plays the Evelyn Farrant, the murderous twin, is a handsome young man with loads of charm but is far too young to be playing a failed great actor deciding that tons of money will compensate for failure and, if it belongs to tycoon brother Rupert so much the better. He is not a great aktor type, but a juvenile lead. He has comic skills, is impressively agile getting out of scrapes and does the required quick changes with the necessary speed, but he is simply miscast, a pity given that this is his professional debut.
As the bogus major hired to do the killing Paul Kemp struggles to make him genuinely shifty and has a most annoying Irish accent, there for no reason, other than to complicate things occasionally, Felicity Duncan is equally miscast as the amorous landlady seeking the rent in kind. She might feel lust for an aktor of a certain age but this is just Oedipal and that isn’t funny. John Hastings as a distinctly iffy constable who keeps coming to call – he clearly fancies the aktor – completes the cast. Given that in the big house downstairs at the Park farce is being performed as it should be it is all the sadder that upstairs things are going so wrong with what should be a copper bottomed piece. Given its history it is not the play that is at fault and one cannot blame a cast clearly trying so hard. But director Clive Brill has simply not got the mixture to come to the boil.
There is a nice set with a revolve, which allows the action to move from one twin’s apartment to the other’s, some nice late 1930s tunes played from time to time which lift the spirits – the action is taking plave on the night Edward V111 made his abdication broadcast, and there is the personable, clearly talented Mr York to enjoy – but he deserves better. The first night audience laughed loudly at the aktor jokes, which suggests there were a few thespians present – Moon, being an actor, knew what he was joking about. It gave the cast a rousing reception at the end – to be fair, they had all worked very hard – but actors know when a dead horse is being flogged before their eyes. This corpse remained exactly that. Stone dead.
Tom York: Evelyn & Rupert Farrant.
Major Powell: Paul Kemp.
Mrs McGee: Felicity Duncan.
Hawkins: John Hastings.
Director: Clive Brill.
Set Designer: Beth Colley.
Lighting Designer: Pip Thurlow.
Costume Designer: Neil Gordon.
Production Photography: Anna Urik.