“I think it’s going to be a real ‘marmite’ kind of show. People will either love it or hate it” said producer Tom O’Connell to me before last night’s Press Night of Raising Martha at the Park Theatre and I think he hit the nail on the head!
Raising Martha is a comedic farce, focused on animal rights activism, making us question where we, as humans, fit in to the animal food chain.
Martha has been dead for five years. Leaving the family frog farm to her two sons Roger (Julian Bleach) and Gerry (Stephen Boxer) to keep the business going and provide schools with specimens to conduct science experiments on. Animal rights activists Jago (Joel Fry), Marc (Tom Bennett) and Caro (Gwyneth Keyworth) decide to exhume the dead woman’s body and hold the bones to ransom, until the men agree to sell the farm and set the frogs free. But what they didn’t bank on was the two sons not being overly bothered about their dead mothers body as they didn’t particularly care for her in the first place. And what really is growing in the green house? Inspector Clout (Jeff Rawle) is there to find out!
Sadly, for a comedy, Raising Martha isn’t particularly funny. It has some terrible ‘dad jokes’ and I struggled to crack more than a smile throughout the show. The set design has promise, with a greenhouse effect and fluorescent lighting around the room. However, the view from the circle (which probably gives the best overall view due to the scenes being performed over two levels) is restricted by the lighting rig and the bright lights around the stage aren’t particularly peaceful on the eyes for the two hour and twenty minute performance.
Raising Martha has some good performances and I think it has a good message at the heart of it although it’s a bit confusing as to what it is. As humans, do we really have the right to fight for the lives of animals when really we are nothing more than animals ourselves? Are we all just dancing frogs waiting to be experimented on? I wonder if David Spicer had been licking too many Toads when he wrote this play!
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Darren Bell
RAISING MARTHA plays at the Park Theatre until 11 February 2017