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.
Review by Terry Eastham
Follow our intrepid cast as they journey to uncharted waters in search of the Eighth Wonder of the World – a gorilla so enormous he instils fear in all who set eyes on him. As hunter becomes the hunted, our story takes us to the iconic skyline of New York City and one burning question must be answered: just how many bananas should we order in?
The cast are: Benjamin Chamberlain (It’s a Wonderful Life, UK tour), Rob Crouch (nominated for the ‘Best Solo Performance’ WhatsOnStage Award for Oliver Reed: Wild Thing, St James Theatre), Sam Donnelly (nominated Most Promising Newcomer for his lead role in the film The Return, which was also nominated Best British Feature at Raindance Film Festival), Alix Dunmore (Pamela/Annabella/Margaret, The 39 Steps, West End, 2014/15; The Fitzrovia Radio Hour’s Christmas Carol), Brendan Murphy (Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night, Orange Tree; Potted Potter, Toronto & Chicago).
The creative team are: Director Owen Lewis. Set Designer Simon Scullion. Costume and Prop Designer Sophia Simensky. Lighting Designer Tim Mascall. Sound Designer Sam Clarkson
King Kong is terrorising The Vaults this summer from Thursday 22 June – Sunday 27 August.
Press Night: Tuesday 4 July – Independence Day!
A comedy by Daniel Clarkson
22 June – 27 August
THE VAULTS THEATRE
London, SE1 7AD