Its Bananas!

The link between primates and yellow fruit is such a tired cliché, but suited the show I saw on Friday perfectly.
Go ape!
Titled King Kong (A Comedy), I did wonder just how obvious this was going to be. Written by Daniel Clarkson and directed by Owen Lewis this is a comedic retelling of the classic story originally filmed in 1933.

This was my first visit to The Vaults – a theatre neatly tucked away underneath the arches of Waterloo Station. The entire bar/restaurant area was decorated for Alice in Wonderland – an interactive show occurring at the same venue – which gave a really fun and playful atmosphere to the potentially dingy underground space.
Being ushered to our seats we were closer to the ceiling than one is used to in a traditional theatre and you could hear the hum and slight structural shudder of trains speeding by just above us.
The stage set up was tiered and appeared to anticipate a twenties jazz band ready to entertain a nightclub, this quietly enhanced the era as most the action unfolded in front. The story was just as advertised – a version of the story of death defying adventure and greed, but told in a ridiculous pantomime style.

To be honest I struggled with the first ten minutes of the performance. The hammy American accents (one of the characters had no particularly discernible accent at all) and silly jokes did make me cringe a little. I was grateful my friend had bought me a drink for the performance.
As the daftness continued its charm also began to emerge. I was reminded of a show my parents took us to as a family when we regularly visited the Grahamstown Arts Festival over winter school holidays. I can’t remember much about the show itself, but the troupe called themselves Raiders and one of the stars was a large ginger bearded Father Christmas of a man called Nicholas Ellenbogen, a veteran of stage and screen (writing, starring and directing) in South Africa.
(An interesting interview with him can be found here: nicholas-ellenbogen-playwright)
I never forgot him since he was one of those special people whose mere presence induces giggles of anticipation. The only joke I recall was Ellenbogen narrating ‘there was a white Rolls parked in the driveway’ alluding to a vehicle, but at which point he took four bread rolls out of his pockets and put them down on the front of the stage. I thought this hysterical, but I was also about 11 years old…

The re-enactment of the battle between Kong and the T-rex was a hysterical highlight

Back to Kong, the confusingly accented character, named Token-Guy (surname – With No Relevance to the Plot – eradicating any doubt) predictably kept appearing to die. Each time however he would interrupt the remaining casts eulogies for him with a resounding ‘I’m OK!’. Almost eye roll inducing, it kept on happening. By the end of the show he had ‘died’ at least six or seven times and with every emergence the audience became more enthusiastically involved to where even I found myself joining the chorus of ‘he’s OK!’ and applauding.

Genuine moments of effervescence sprinkled in with the slapstick including two-dimensional characters, creative props and puppetry made the show altogether rather enjoyable. We did feel it a bit childish but that’s probably because we weren’t expecting that level of parody.
I did feel the length a bit because there was no interval, but that was a wise choice. Any break in the frantic momentum would have ruined it completely. I applauded the cast for their energetic performances and for embracing when things evidently went wrong.

One actor started corpsing (breaking character by laughing) which was actually a delight, and later a failing false moustache were both elements which added to the performance as a whole. As soon as we knew how much fun the cast were having we couldn’t help but join in.
Laughter is infectious, and while it’s not something I’d go back to see, it is a fun piece of silly theatre which is much needed in these trying times.

The show runs through July and August:

Go bananas…