This six-handed farcical Middle England ‘romp-com’ by David Spicer centres round the disinterred and disassembled skeleton of Martha ‘Mother’ Duffy. Her exhumation by animal rights (psycho)activists and comical bone dispersal leads to a series of (un)orchestrated calamitous events with territorial greed, weed and ultimately chicken feed in the mix. Hereditary, animal (‘the third emancipation: ‘slaves, women, frogs’) and human rights are all dissected in a familiar tale of familial feuding and fowl play.
Martha’s remains are dug up, reburied, then re-dug up by dogs; the bones are the clues, the trail followed by clownish Inspector Clout, a verbally dextrous Herculean Pierrot desperate for that big case who delivers the best lines: ‘civil liberties? We gave them up to protect them’ to bemoaning the state of ‘sandwiches today? Avocado, grape and rocket are just words between bread’ a dig at faddish vegetarianism, arguably how the meat industry wants it to be perceived.
Laird of this Toad Hall is Gerry, whose frog farming for vivisectionists acts as a smokescreen for his potent hybrid of cane toad gland-spittle marijuana which upon ingestion sees him receive numerous visitations from six-foot amphibians’ intent on cutting him open, repaying the barbarism.
In opposition with Gerry is financially strapped brother Roger, who eyes the prize/price of land so a psychological battle of wits ensues between them uncovering a mutual antipathy towards their exhumed Mother and revealing admissions of culpability.
At the heart of the grave-robbing is scheming Caro, granddaughter of Martha and the brains behind the plot to seize the land for a chicken farm, playing the bumbling ‘activists’ Jago (a.k.a. the less-radical sounding ‘Graham’) and Mark like a fiddle. This is expertly summarised when Roger threatens to boil the frogs, a metaphor for how often realisation comes too late (‘at boiling point’); oblivious to the obvious.
The cartoonish climax sees one character with all their eggs in one basket, the coup now a coop, all chickens coming home to roost, new income now poultry not paltry. This is a sharp satire on meat abstention, recreational drug use and extremism, especially how the term is knowingly deployed as articulated by Clout: ‘when protest turns into terrorism it becomes police budgetary policy’; it’s how you frame the blame.
‘Raising Martha’ is at the Park Theatre until 11th February.
Check out the exclusive Theatre-News.com cast interviews below. Subscribe here to be notified of future exclusives.
Be the first to see our exclusive Theatre News cast interviews by subscribing to our brand new Youtube channel as well as our Twitter and Facebook pages.