30th June 2017
“A madcap comedy escape”
The cinematic path to Skull Island and the fabled beast King Kong is a well trodden one since the first film in 1933 up to the recently released Kong: Skull Island starring, amongst others, Tom Hiddleston.
Less trodden is the theatre path but that has changed with the opening of Daniel Clarkson’s engaging comedic re-imagination of the Kong story at the atmospheric Vaults underneath Waterloo Station.
Clarkson, a self–confessed cinephile, has previous success from his critically acclaimed ‘Potted’ stage shows that included the Olivier nominated Potted Potter. Being a huge fan of the 1933 classic King Kong he wanted to create a spoof comedy version for the stage and his work is now available for all to see.
Keeping close to the original film storyline, filmmaker Carl Denham charters a New York ship for a project but is unable to secure an actress for the female role. After a search he finds penniless Ann and convinces her to join the crew for an adventure of a lifetime. They head for Skull Island.
There follows a series of adventures that culminate in the capture of Kong, who is brought back to New York to be paraded as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Eventually escaping and climbing the Empire State Building, Kong is shot and falls to his death. Denham says the classic line ‘it wasn’t the airplanes, it was Beauty that killed the Beast’.
Set designer Simon Scullion makes the most of the arched space and has created an adaptable four tier pyramid set that creates a sense of the ship, Skull Island and the Empire State Building. The sound is loud and clear bringing in particular a hidden beast to life. Lighting is basic but effective.
The five competent actors play various roles and each commands the set throughout the 80 minute show. Various props are brought onto the set and there is a hilarious use of puppetry in the ‘sacrifice’ scene.
Rob Crouch as Denham (looking every part the film director in his linen suit) has a strong voice that leads us through the storyline. Ben Chamberlain plays the wimpy sailor scared of almost everything but provides the love interest with Ann (Alix Dunmore). Sam Donnelly is the archetypal seafaring Skipper and Brendan Murphy is a hilarious Token Guy. The cast obviously enjoyed bringing this comic romp to the stage.
Fans of King Kong will undoubtedly want to witness this show though it does has a much wider appeal and there was a good cross section of ages in the audience. Whether those younger members quite understood some of the humour is questionable but they would have enjoyed the visual delights on offer.
The show was laugh out loud in places and mildly funny in others. The humour seemed to represent a mixture between pantomime, an end of the pier show, Monty Python and a little bit of Marx Brothers. There was a feeling though that the whole wasn’t greater than the sum of its parts.
In conclusion this was a well acted and presented show that made for a fun night out and a tonic for those wanting a bit of silliness to brighten their week. It is indeed a bananas production and worth a visit.
Photography by Geraint Lewis
is at The Vaults until 27th August