Horror-pastiche fun from Kill the Beast
'Don't Wake the Damp' is on at Soho Theatre in March 2017. This review is from the 2016 run.
Kill the Beast are a young company with a big future, whose animation-enhanced, genre-pastiching shows are a kind of collision of 1927 and The League of Gentleman that teeters enjoyably on the brink of sketch comedy and comedy theatre.
The sequel to their award-winning ‘70s werewolf movie pisstake ‘He Had Hairy Hands’ (which is also back at the Fringe this year), ‘Don’t Wake the Damp’ pulls of the impressive feat of simultaneously sending up both tower block-set horror/action movies and shonky British sci-fi serials of the ‘70s/‘80s.
I think to truly love Kill the Beast you probably need to love the stuff they’re homaging as much as they do. For others – ie me – an-hour-and-a-bit with them is maybe a bit on the long side for a show that doesn’t really have any underlying message or point to make other than to fondly take the piss.
Nonetheless, it is really good fun. The show begins as an amusingly crappy sci-fi drama – presumably of ‘70s or ‘80s vintage, but set in the year 2035 – in which a misfit spaceship crew of a chisel-jawed superhero captain, a cleaning robot, and a nubile young bimbette whose name is BOOBS (for reasons that were explained but that I now forget) attempt to save a very wobbly-looking universe from destruction at the hands of sundry intergalactic loons.
Suddenly we cut to the real year 2035 and a tower block that’s been condemned by the local council for somewhat shifty reasons. Amongst the handful of eccentric denizens who refuses to leave is Juniper Berry, an elderly, embittered old lady who it turns out once had the world at her feet as a young woman when she played BOOBS in the aforementioned TV show.
What follows is a very silly, very fun romp in which Berry must battle demons from her past while simultaneously fighting off the tentacled creatures in the tower basement. It’s laden with killer gags from start to finish, and the bewigged, face-painted company themselves are a delight – a special mention to Natasha Hodgson who is a hoot as the cantankerous old Berry.
It’s great, then, but it’s about as deep as a piece of paper. But it’s not hard to imagine that they could do more emotionally complex, sophisticated shows, and I think it’s a leap they’ll surely make if they choose to.