As Sir Archer Martin Shee, President of the RA, along with Tim Spall and the cast of Academicians in Mike Leigh's epic movie, Mr Turner.
My version of Mr Turner.
Clive Francis on reworking Ben Travers'Thark
at the Park Theatre, Finsbury Park, London
****Michael Billington.The Guardian. Clive Francis' adaptation is
a joyous evening that reminds us that Travers, like his contemporaryPG Wodehouse,created an alternativeuniverse in which panic always lurks just below the
innocent surface.Francis himself, endows Sir Hector with a rogueish twinkle and an air
of fluster that teeters on the edge of terror (for that, I can forgive him such
textual solecisms as "a figure to die for", which you certainly
wouldn't have heard in the 1920s).
****CharlesSpencer.The Daily Telegraph.This farcical comedy provides moments of
unalloyed comic joy.
****Libby Purvis,The Times.Clive
Francis is a pure joy to watch, with deft monocle-work and a lovely chubby,
skipping, incompetent lechery.
Here, he explains how he went about updating it -
and why he changed the ending.
Francis and James Dutton inThark
© Ben Broomfield
Trying to adapt a classic farce for the stage, especially one that has
long been regarded as a cherished masterpiece, was never going to be an easy
task. Ben Travers' Thark along with many of his other Aldwych farces have been stored very firmly in the annals of stage history, where I was concerned they would remain as museum pieces with the occasional one emerging from time to time to remind us how
funny they once were.
On the whole they are regarded as being charming and dated, which is a
pity as I think each one a masterpiece in need of being re-examined. One
mustn't forget that Ben Travers was writing for a repertory of actors headed by Tom Walls, Ralph Lynn and Robertson Hare, except that Tom Walls insisted that there should always be a part for his girlfriend, and as Walls kept changing his girlfriend on a fairly
regular basis, sometimes halfway through rehearsals, Ben was always being kept
firmly on his toes. Even so, what may have had audiences splitting their sides
in the 1920's wasn't necessarily going to have the same effect nowadays.
I remember being invited along with other members of the family to join
Ben Travers at a screening of Cuckoo in the Nest at the National Film
Theatre, sometime in the late 1970's, a film which he had also directed. It was
painfully slow to watch, a literal re-enactment of the stage performance, with
agonisingly long pauses between some of the lines, which as Ben explained later
were intentional: "The actors were leaving room for the laughs, you
see"; which were certainly not coming thick and fast that afternoon.
The basis of all farce remains roughly the same - zany, slapstick
humour, hilarious improbabilities, wild coincidences and seemingly endless
twists and complications. It is the execution of its playing that has
moderately changed over the years. Modern interpretations of farce tend to be
played much faster - sometimes grotesquely so - with performances, unless
controlled, verging towards the brink of insanity.
But back in the 1920's the characterizations tended to be more
leisurely, more flustered and confused, certainly those conceived by Pinero and
Travers. After all, Ben Travers was determined that all the characters in his
plays should be recognizable types of human beings. "The funniness must be
in the situation and the circumstances in which these beings find themselves
and these are only funny because the characters are so recognizably
And that truism still remains as the basis of all good farce.
Dates for 2013 so far include:
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Dec. 18th - 28th
Clive Francis' Scrooge is the
best! Birmingham Mail
A sleight of hand in
which, before our very eyes, he fills an empty stage with an entire Dickensian
landscape. Simply magic!
wonderful, wonderful Scrooge
The perfect antidote to
panto. Clive Francis gives us a beautifully gift-wrapped Christmas