King Kong returns to his origins at the Vaults Theatre. Writer Daniel Clarkson (co-creator of the Potted franchise, most famously Potted Potter, a show that condensed the entirety of the Harry Potter novels to one performance), and director Owen Lewis have created an energetic retelling of a tale as old as time — beauty kills the beast. There are only five actors and of course, zero special effects specialists, which means it's all up to the narrator and expedition leader Carl Denham (Rob Crouch) to convince you of the story's authenticity.
Sam Donnelly and Brendan Murphy in King Kong: A Comedy. Photo: Geraint Lewis
In this adaptation of the story, Denham (director, buffoon, and all around macho, macho man), is embarking on a voyage with his intrepid crew: captained by the daring Skipper (Sam Donnelly), accompanied by the not-so-daring Jack Driscoll (Ben Chamberlain), and protected by the expendable Token Guy (Brendan Murphy). Together they prepare to shoot the ultimate adventure film.
The crew would be lost without leading lady Ann (Alex Dunmore), an impoverished blonde who just so happens to fall at their feet in a time of crisis, who also just so happens to have an expansive knowledge of cartography, ancient languages, and drawing up legal contracts. Heaven knows how many degrees she must have completed to accomplish all that — it’s no wonder she’s broke.
Set designer Simon Scullion’s tiered stage makes creative use of the space, transforming the atmospheric tunnels of the Vaults’ into a boat, mountain, or New York city skyline depending on the lighting. The cast does a lot more with paper dolls, popsicle sticks, and a voice distorter than all the special effects Michael Bay crammed into his last Transformers movie combined.
King Kong relies heavily on the implication of a monster (the same concept that worked so well in the film Jaws). But instead of an ominous score, here the production uses slapstick comedy must-haves including stereotypes, props and Monty Python allusions.
Benjamin Chamberlain and Rob Crouch in King Kong: A Comedy. Photo: Geraint Lewis
The show is a rollicking good time with many references and visual jokes, although not all of them found their mark, and the show's weakest aspect is cramming in too many punchlines.
Kong has starred on the silver screen eight times. From Jack Black's 2005 epic King Kong to the newfangled 2017 blockbuster Kong: Skull Island, the movie classic has seen numerous adaptations — each reboot more terrifying than the last, as film-makers attempt to outdo each other with special effects and CGI. This isn't the only stage adaptation of Kong planned — Global Creatures has announced that King Kong will arrive on Broadway in the fall of 2018. Written by Olivier Award-winner Jack Thorne, who co-wrote the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the show will star a giant animatronic puppet in the titular role.
King Kong (a comedy) satirizes every King Kong, while remaining steadfastly committed to the monster's legacy. With minimal sets and maximum creativity, it feels like production put on by a bunch of really, really talented neighbourhood kids.
Join the intrepid cast as they search the uncharted waters below Waterloo Station for the Eighth Wonder of the World — a gorilla so enormous he strikes fear into the hearts and minds of all who set eyes on him.
Suitable for ages 8+
|What||Review: King Kong, The Vaults Theatre|
|Where||The Vaults Theatre, Launcelot Street, London, SE1 7AD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
22 Jun 17 – 27 Aug 17, Matinee and evening performances available
|Price||£25 general admission seats, £35 premium cabaret seats|
|Website||Check here for tickets and additional information|