Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018 review
Venue: Pleasance Dome, Ace Dome
As I entered the brightly-bedecked theatre, adorned with wicker lampshades, peppered with colourful plush cushions and psychedelic wallpaper, I was instantly transported into the 1970s, all the more so as I got to lounge comfortably on said cushions.
Ken transports us back to this era, when Terry Johnson, who flits in and out of narration and playing himself, was still an aspiring 20-something writer. As he ventured on a quest to write a play about a dead zoo, he found his project side-tracked by a phone-call by none other than theatre maverick Ken Campbell, played by Jeremy Stockwell, who pops up from amid the audience making the call from, well, a banana. Originally looking for someone called Geoff, Campbell is taken by Johnson’s South African Geordie accents - who wouldn’t be? - and ends up offering him Jim Broadbent’s part in a 24-hour - yes - play.
This wonderful piece of absurd theatre is a weird and wonderful tale of Campbell’s and Johnson’s shared past into which the audience is roped in: for the brave, an act that involves a real, heavy brick, and a long piece of elastic; and for those unwittingly finding themselves having to be brave. Stockwell accidentally trod on one audience members’ fingers (ouch indeed) and cleverly managed to incorporate his genuine concern into his lines. This was indicative of the general format of the play, which while well-scripted and choreographed, allowed for a degree of relaxed improvisation at points.
Stockwell seamlessly switches from character to character, dotting himself across the auditorium in empty seats as he finds them, often drawing in audience members with his gripping gaze, and effusing an effervescent palpable energy.
The script is witty, entertaining, at times poetic and Johnson (who wrote the script) clearly enjoyed narrating it, an energy which could certainly be felt among the audience. At 90 minutes, the narration could have done with a bit more straying, if you will, from the simple reading of a script from a podium. It could also have benefited from being slightly shorter, especially in the light of the fact that it was being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe where most shows are 60 minutes long, although one can not but think that there once was a play that lasted 24 hours….