Sheila Hancock and Lee Evans star in the late Clive Exton’s new play Barking in Essex about a dysfunctional Essex family.
A strong supporting cast includes Keeley Hawes, Karl Johnson and Montserrat Lombard.
But did the critics go for it?
Seems not. Despite being a new play it was written a decade ago and generally the critics feel that the play is out-of-date, not funny enough and doesn’t do justice to the acting talent attached to the project.
Read reviews from the Guardian, Standard, FT and more, below.
"Much has been made of the play's filthy language, and there is a certain humorous delight to be had in watching the usually refined Hawes and Hancock fire off the C-word like hand grenades. But this quickly fades, leaving only an uncomfortable sense that actors of this calibre deserve better work than this – let alone the audiences who pay to see them." Read more
The Daily Telegraph
"this comedy – the last to be written by [Clive] Exton before his death in 2007 – is still a tiring, strangely dated, affair." Read more
"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 … What you’re left with is crude, relentless mockery of the Essex brigade’s stupidity and skewed materialist values." Read more
"Most of the laugh-out-loud stuff comes from the liberal use of blue language. Though watching the legendary Sheila Hancock (who is the stand out performer) swear vociferously has its moments, it soon wears thin." Read more
"There must be a reason why it took eight years for this play to be staged (Exton himself died in 2007): I incline to the view that this is because it isn’t much good. There must, similarly, be a reason why it is now being presented: that, I think, is because the likes of TV series The Only Way Is Essex have blurred the lines between indictment and endorsement of these values, so that a production like Harry Burton’s here can now both have its cake, by satirising such brainless excess, and eat it, by ensuring the satire is so toothless that the whole affair becomes simply a bit of raucous fun." Read more
"Sheila Hancock brings the right note of caustic crudeness to sour matriarch Emmie. Meanwhile Keeley Hawes, who at first resembles the fairy off an especially bling Christmas tree, savours the opportunity to play against type as fame-craving Chrissie. Evans, who has proved himself a versatile stage performer, manages to repress his natural elastic style and still display his flair for physical comedy." Read more
"The play has one good surprise gag in the second act but otherwise, as a piece of black comedy, it is neither sufficiently dark nor consistently funny." Read more