“kills with a witty script that manages to avoid clichés in unexpected and humorous ways”
The Incognito Theatre Company describe The Net Kill as a play about badminton — “the most pointless garden sport ever invented”. But it’s about much more than that, of course. It is a delightful caper about five friends who go on a “quest” to rid the West Country of a fearsome creature who has been slaughtering aristos and yokels alike. They are also hoping to rescue their beloved local pub from permanent closure. These two utterly unrelated events are linked by a lot of rushing about on stage, with badminton racquets. Oh, and shuttlecocks. And a net. Sound like a lot to cram into sixty minutes? Absolutely, but it’s sixty fun filled minutes of impeccably choreographed physical action. The Net Kill also kills with a witty script that manages to avoid clichés in unexpected and humorous ways.
The plot is a comfortable mash up of elements stolen from Sherlock Holmes novels and the Boys Own magazines. Whatever else transpires in this tale, you know the chaps will triumph in the end. They begin by taking on local badminton tournaments with aplomb. Their talent for winning does not go unnoticed by shadowy figures lurking in Queen Victoria’s police force. Soon the team is on its way to Gloucestershire to face a ravenous beastie armed with nothing other than the aforementioned badminton racquets. Are they true blue, upstanding and heroic figures? Like all heroes, they have a few flaws. They cheat a little, it is true; one of their number has a King Arthur complex; another has lycanthropic tendencies as a result of being raised by wolves in Wales. At least one has a megalomaniac desire for aristocratic titles. Yet it is these flaws that allow them to confront the beast without and within.
What sets the script of The Net Kill apart is that each role is clearly defined even though much of the action revolves around ways in which the characters act as a pack. Armed with a script that needs impeccable comic timing, some props and an ironic choice of music ranging from Vivaldi to Led Zeppelin, the company makes the time zip by. In addition, actors Angus Castle-Doughty, Charlie MacVicar, George John, Alex Maxwell and Daniel Whitlam display athletic skills that would put most athletes to shame. If they can keep up this pace without burning out, Incognito Theatre is going places.
Enthusiastically recommended. Even if the heroes of The Net Kill do employ dodgy tactics for winning badminton tournaments.
“Whatever the idea was in its fruition, it’s been lost in the execution”
I am not averse to a little chaos. And I’m often happy to see the conventional, linear form flipped on its head for the sake of communicating a particularly tricky message to the audience. But in the instance of Fruits, Or the Decline of a Distant Memory, I’m not at all sure what the message was supposed to be.
Themes of love, sex and identity run hazily through a series of non sequitur vignettes, surreal and nonsensical: two little girls play various games until one of them is seemingly lost forever in hide-and-seek; someone stands and lists all the possible genders, sexualities, and sexual preferences to the point of absurdity; a woman dressed as Eve, leaves covering her crotch and nipples with a snake wrapped round her neck, proceeds to devour an apple, spit it out, and beat the snake to death. Throughout, fruit is eaten, spat out, and violently smashed to the ground, after which a glittering fruit fly comes to enjoy the spoils whilst telling us about his first sexual encounter.
There’s definitely a lot of humour, which is a relief because something like this could easily take itself far too seriously: a cleaner, whilst ‘cleaning’ the audience, appears to find a baggy of unidentified white powder on a fellow reviewer, and greedily snorts it all up; a boy lays solemnly crying in a woman’s lap, and she peers at the audience, shrugging, “well, fuck this shit.” It’s irreverent and self-aware, but in the context of the rest of the script, it all just seems meaningless.
The design, too, is bizarre: Playing to the length of the long, skinny room, with benches on either side, the audience’s attention is drawn from one end to the other. The lighting is sophisticated, following certain performers with multiple spotlights, or shedding pink and yellow washes across the whole. One scene has a woman desperately chasing an ever-moving spotlight, which is actually very funny. But sometimes a monologue is carried out in darkness, whilst the audience remains well-lit, or a spotlight appears halfway through a scene. It feels both purposeful and poorly chosen. If you’re going to require the audience to seek out the next voice on such a long stage, you have to show them where to look. On top of that, in an attempt to create a dream-like atmosphere, there’s so much reverb on the mics that quite a lot of the script is lost to the already cavernous room.
Whatever the idea was in its fruition, it’s been lost in the execution. TAKDAJA prove themselves to be very capable, diverse performers, but the script needs a lot more guidance.