The great ape has fascinated the world for years. From his first appearance on film in 1933 – complete with Fay Wray’s screaming – through to the Dino De Laurentiis version which substituted the World Trade Centre for the Empire State Building, and the subsequent versions, the primate resident of Skull Island has held a special place in the cinema going public’s heart. So, I was very excited to be asked to go along and see a theatrical version of King Kong at the Waterloo Vaults Theatre.
Notorious director Carl Denham (Bob Crouch) is heading off on an adventure. He has heard of a mysterious island where the locals worship a 100ft ape called Kong. Carl has found a boat, a captain (Sam Donnelly), a dashing – well sort of – first mate Jack Driscoll (Ben Chamberlain) and a crew, which includes Token Guy (Brendan Murphy). All he needs now is his star. After a series of false starts, Jack meets and selects the beautiful Ann (Alix Dunmore) to be his heroine. Now, with everyone on board, Jack and his team set sail to find Skull Island and confront its hairy inhabitant.
While writing the above, I have been trying to think of words to describe this production of King Kong. Various came to mind, such as mad, bonkers, surreal, hilarious etc. In fact, as I don’t want to give anything away, I’m not sure where to start in describing the production. I will say that you get a feeling for the type of show you are about to see when you take your seat and start listening to the pre-show music. Somebody has been busy finding every tune that can be connected to apes – either directly or indirectly. As well as the obvious, songs from the Monkeys themselves, there is The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana) and many more. It’s definitely worth having a listen as there were some great tunes in there.
Once the show starts, Rob Crouch’s Denham comes out and provides the audience with a brief overview of where we are and what his plans will be. Over the course of the next 80 minutes, we get the entire story of King Kong, and writer Daniel Clarkson has put together a finely written narrative that covers the narrative up to the, surprisingly poignant, moment on the top of the Empire State Building and its aftermath. With only five actors, the range of characters is reduced but there is still room for all of the main ones and also wonderfully funny ones like Token Guy, who everyone is expecting to die at any minute – rather like the guy in Star Trek that goes on his first landing party. Simon Scullion’s set and, at times pretty amazing props, really enhance the story and when added to Sophia Simensky’s costumes, Tim Mascall’s lighting and Sam Clarkson’s sound give Director Owen Lewis a wonderful palette on which to create the story.
Of course, this is a show that really rests on its cast and every one of them was really good. They are wonderfully energetic and given the amount they throw themselves about, obviously dedicated to the production. The pace is very fast with barely time to draw breath between elements. The writing is funny and the commitment is complete and the cast really deliver a first rate production. Some of the jokes are really well thought out whist others are some of the worst puns I’ve ever heard, but they all elicit a reaction – whether a laugh or a groan – and, at times they come so thick and fast that whilst laughing at one thing, you miss the next. A minor point to be sure in what is otherwise a superb and highly entertaining telling of the Kong story. Well worth a visit.
Since July 2014, I've seen and reviewed 588 shows altogether. 2017 was a fairly quiet year with a total of 132 shows visited by yours truly.
So, in the best traditions of end of the year ideas, here is my list of the top 10 shows that I've seen this year. Please remember, this is my list not anybody else's and if you don't agree with the pick, well, what can I say?
1.Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Bridewell Theatre This story of friendship and hope took two drag queens and a trans woman from Sydney to Alice Springs, in a big pink bus. Along the way, the met new friends and face rampant homophobia. SEDOS brought every element of the show together beautifully, and to a standard that you would expect to see in the West End. Sold out virtually as soon as it was announced, this was the ‘must see production of the year. 2.La Cage aux Folles, New Wimbledon Theatre This is was a touring production of a show that demonstrates the importance of family and how much a parent will s…
Southern Baptist Sissies
Above the Stag is a theatre that specialises in putting on LGBT+ shows. I’ve been there a couple of times previously and seen some very well produced and very funny plays about gay life. So, I was really looking forward to another visit last night to see their latest show, the European premiere of Southern Baptist Sissies by Del Shores.
This is the story of four people emerging from childhood and becoming adults. These boys are all from the great state of Texas – the ‘buckle’ in the bible belt – and all are regular attendees at their small town Baptist church presided over by a real old fashioned ‘wrath of God’ style preacher (Stephen Parker). The four boys are all really good friends who each bring something different to the group. So, there is preacher’s son Mark (Jason Kirk) the thinker, TJ (Daniel Klemens) the brawn, Andrew (Hugh O’Donnell) the introverted and…
A theatre show is often like a swan. Out on stage, all is serene and beautiful whilst backstage there is a hive of activity going on. There have been various shows written about life backstage at a theatre – Noises Off springs to mind, though I’ve still not got around to seeing it. However, if you would like to see life backstage during a Christmas show, then you can do no better than toodle off to the Waterloo East Theatre to see Shaun Kitchener’s play Christmas Farce.
Thirty minutes – or in theatrical parlance, The Half – before curtain up and Alice (Natalie Lester) is the only person in the Green Room of a regional theatre. The fact it is Christmas is demonstrated not only by Alice’s OTT festive jumper but also with the gaudy decorations festooning the place. These are the handiwork of back-stage worker Makenzie (Marc-Gee Finch) and, while they are a tad tacky, they do add a sort of desperate fe…