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Clive Francis replaces Michael Culkin in Park Thark

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Actor and writer Clive Francis has stepped in to star in his own forthcoming adaptation of Ben Travers' farce Thark following the withdrawal of Michael Culkin, WhatsOnStage can reveal.

Clive Francis
© Dan Wooller
Culkin, who was due to play the leading role of Sir Hector Benbow in the production at Park Theatre, is now unable to appear due to television filming commitments.

Producers Sarah Loader, Eleanor Rhode and Damian Arnold said today, "We are thrilled to welcome Clive to the cast. As the adapter of this brilliant Aldwych farce, he brings a wealth of knowledge to the company, and it's a privilege to have him to be at the heart of it. It's sad to see Michael leave the production but we wish him every success with the series."

Francis joins Lucy May Barker, Richard Beanland, Sarah-Jayne Butler, Claire Cartwright, James Dutton, Andrew Jarvis, Mary Keegan, Joanna Wake and John Wark to complete the company.

Thark, which premiered in 1927, is one of Travers' best loved 'Aldwych Farces'. The first London revival was in 1965 with Peter Cushing and Alex McCowen as Hector Benbow and Ronny Gamble. The play was later revived at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1989, with Dinsdale Landen and Griff Rhys Jones.

The play centres on Sir Hector Benbow, whose secret liaison with shop girl Cherry is scuppered by his wife's early arrival home. What's more, there are reports that Thark – the family home – is haunted. Hector, his plucky nephew Ronny, and the rest of the family set out to the house to prove the rumours wrong. But Thark promises to live up to its spine-chilling reputation.

Clive Francis' many stage acting credits include What the Butler Saw, Single Spies, An Absolute Turkey, Entertaining Mr Sloane, Enron and The Madness of George III (West End) and 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, A Small Family Business and Never So Good for the National Theatre.

Thark opens at Park200 on 23 August (previews from 21 August), and runs until 22 September.