Review Roundup: BARKING IN ESSEX at the Wyndham Theatre
Freedom finally beckons for lowlife con man Algie Packer. He's done seven years inside and now he's coming home to spend his carefully stashed cash - £3.5million in untraceable notes. But there's something Algie's family has forgotten to mention... The Packers are your average dysfunctional Essex crime family with a big problem. Are they going to be able to cover their tracks before Algie arrives home?
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney of whatsonstage.com writes: God knows what the plot is, reeling away from an out-of-date triumph on Chris Tarrant's Who Wants to be a Millionaire (who flash-backs to that any more; aren't we all signed up to the X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing?) to a property scam and a surprise resolution.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard writes: Barking in Essex is a comedy that knows it's brash and unsubtle. But it also strikes me as desperately unfunny. Author Clive Exton, beloved for his work on TV's Jeeves and Wooster, died six years ago, so it has taken a while for this play - one of his rare forays into theatre - to make it to the stage. Perhaps the decision to put it on in the West End is connected to the spray-tanned success of TOWIE, though the stars of that show look like eggheads compared to Exton's creations.
Michael Billington of the Guardian says: Clive Exton made a name for himself writing black comedies for ITV in the early 1960s before turning to more mainstream fare such as adapting Jeeves and Wooster. In this rare venture into stage drama, written in 2005 - two years before his death - he returned to his original mode. The result, I fear, is a strained, effortful piece that shows just how much the genre had moved on.
Charles Spencer of the Telegraph writes: The filthy but oddly endearing comedian Roy "Chubby" Brown always has the words "if easily offended please stay away" appended to his publicity material. The management of Wyndham's Theatre might consider adopting a similar strategy for this foul-mouthed comedy by the late Clive Exton (1930-2007), best known for scripting such much-loved TV series as Jeeves and Wooster and Poirot but here responsible for a work of a very different hue. Blue is the colour that comes to mind.
Paul Taylor of the Independent says: It's a promising premise for a black farce, but Exton's stop-go plotting and the sagging patches in Harry Burton's production prevent the material from developing any comic momentum, especially when there's a complete change of location in the second half (though that occasions the one really funny surprise twist of the evening)....What you're left with is crude, relentless mockery of the Essex brigade's stupidity and skewed materialist values. Proudly proclaiming that Darnley "wouldn't know a book if it bit him in the bollocks" or fussing over the state her sofa rather than the bleeding hit man sprawled on it, the redoubtable Sheila Hancock occasionally manages to wring some genuine mirth out of the matriarch's moral blankness.