The Colonel: the Weirdos Comedy Club’s alternative pantomime

Who needs turkey? The Weirdos team’s new gleefully chaotic alternative pantomime ‘The Colonel’ argues that Christmas is really about fried chicken

Ali Brice takes on the title role of The Colonel

Ali Brice takes on the title role of The Colonel

The Weirdos Comedy Club – run by absurdist comic Adam Larter – has been churning out experimental, outlandish (and, to some, baffling) stand-up gigs since 2010. But last December the gang pulled off their most ambitious project yet: an alternative pantomime in the form of a strange theatrical interpretation of the 1991 Robin Williams hit ‘Hook’. It was a triumph of inventive silliness, and raised £4,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

This year, they’re panto-ing up again, but rather than recreating a Disney movie, they’ve written an original piece called ‘The Colonel’: an epic story of a young man whose struggles in life lead him to create the perfect recipe for fried chicken. I spoke to Larter and co-writer and comedian Matthew Highton about how they made it on the cheap.

We cast stand-up comics

‘They’ll literally do anything. They’re the most attention-craving people imaginable, so if you need them to dress up as a chicken or get hit in the face they will just see it as stage time.’

We found props on the street

‘Oh, you’re expecting a painted backdrop of a quaint village? Well, here’s a soiled mattress and one high-heeled shoe – just use your imagination.’

We didn’t hire a band

‘We just Googled karaoke versions of our favourite songs. We’re pretty sure that’s legally okay.’

We did it for charity

‘“But I went to see David Hasselhoff in pantomime last year – I’ve never heard of anyone in your play!” Of course you haven’t, but ours is in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. Don’t you feel horrible about yourself now?’

We made up our own story

‘If you do “Robin Hood” or “Puss in Boots”, people have “expectations”. “Why are there two characters played by the same person with exactly the same voice and costume?” they’ll ask, or, “Why is that character eating crisps in the background?” We’ll tell you why. It’s our play and therefore our rules. But thanks for coming.’

We killed off characters before they do something dramatic

‘“And then the character goes on a journey to a magical dreamland…” Uh oh, sounds expensive. Just as they’re setting off, we've killed them off. Simple. Similar rule applies to anyone who needs to travel by boat – make him or her have a phobia. Simple.’

We made it ironic

‘We’ve set the entire play in east London, so there’s now a layer of irony to everything, whether we want it or not.’

We cut a scene every so often

‘No one ever pays any attention to continuity.’

We don’t allow kids in

‘The biggest problem with pantomimes is the children that come to see them. They watch too much Pixar, expect everything to be 3D and want sweets in the interval. No! It’s time they learned some life lessons. Not everything is meant to be entertaining!’

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