Barking in Essex

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Previewed 6 September 2013, Opened 16 September 2013, Closed 4 January 2014 at the Wyndham's Theatre in London.

Clive Exton's new comedy Barking in Essex in London starring Sheila Hancock and Lee Evans and directed by directed by Harry Burton.

Essex's most notorious gangster, Algie Packer has just finished a seven year stretch 'inside' - now he is coming home to collect his loot - 3.6 million, in untracable bank notes. Unfortuntely his family have forgotten to tell him somthing while he was inside - and now they're desperately trying to cover-up their tracks before Algie arrives to collect that loot. Lee Evans plays the hapless 'Darnley Parker' somewhat dim witted he's what could best be described as the village idiot of the criminal underworld and then there is his mum, Emmie, played by Sheila Hancock, who acts like the family's Rottweiler with a hairdo.

Please Note: not recommended for under 16s.

The cast for Barking in Essex in London features Sheila Hancock as 'Emmie Packer', Lee Evans as 'Darnley Packer', Keeley Hawes as 'Chrissie Parker', Karl Johnson as 'Rocco' and Montserrat Lombard as 'Allegra'. The production is directed by Harry Burton, designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by James Farncombe and sound by Gareth Owen.

"Reactions to Clive Exton's broad and brash Essex gangland comedy - a very English cross between Dumb And Dumber and Pulp Fiction, with an incest subplot thrown in for good measure - will depend in large part on your feelings about bad language. If you can't abide the C-word, you probably won't stay in your seat beyond the first five minutes. On the other hand, if you're not put off by a bit (or, actually, a vast amount) of swearing, you'll be able to savour the finesse with which director Harry Burton's stellar cast drop their many F- and C-bombs. Exton wrote his play in 2005 and died before its first production could be scheduled. The script's verbal extravagance - revelling in malapropisms such as 'portray that trust' - emerges intact but the topical humour inevitably lacks freshness." The Metro

"The actress [Sheila Hancock] seldom gets to play baddies and she makes the most of the foul-mouthed matriarch of an old gangster family. Alas, for all her efforts, this comedy is still a tiring, strangely dated, affair. The pity of it is that Miss Hancock heads a superb ensemble - Lee Evans as her son, Keeley Hawes as his moll, and Karl Johnson as a decrepit hit man. They do their best, but they are patently working with criminally unfunny material. Comedies also, by and large, should not end bloodily and violently, as this one does. Poor Miss Hancock. She should not have to appear in such miserable rubbish at her age." The Sunday Telegraph

"This tale of an aggressively ignorant clan of Essex criminals has some terrific lines, pebble dashed with enough F-words and C-bombs to unsettle a sailor. It also has the sort of lapses in taste and logic that you might find in a two-star show. Which means that it needs the sort of four-star turns it gets from Evans, a magnificent Sheila Hancock as his ruthless mum and a committed Keeley Hawes as his WAG-ish wife... Barking in Essex treads a fine line as it mocks the ignorant. If the cast were Judgmental it could all play as one big, brash sneer. Yet they inhabit their characters' articulate, murderous sense of entitlement so fully that they make them fair comic game." The Times

Clive Exton is best known for his television screenplays which included P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie for ITV and Rosemary & Thyme starring Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris and Agatha Christie's Poirot starring David Suchet, all for ITV. Written two years before he died in 2007, Barking in Essex was due to be staged in the West End in 2008 starring Elaine Paige but the production was aborted before it could open.

Barking in Essex in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 6 September 2013, opened on 16 September 2013 and closed on 4 January 2014.