Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • OLD KING COLE • Unicorn @ Cochrane Theatre • 2004

Personal snapshot of theatrical phenomenon Ken Campbell, taken by Richard Adams [Wikipedia]

Personal snapshot of theatrical phenomenon Ken Campbell, taken by Richard Adams [Wikipedia]

Ken Campbell’s dastardly comedy for kids, Old King Cole is a well-travelled piece. It even attracted the attention of stern-faced German academics in the ‘seventies, who saw the show’s sausage-chomping trap-meister, the amazing Faz, as a thinly disguised satire on the Frankfurter Allemagne Zeitung newspaper.

Political allegory aside, the show, presently manifested by Unicorn Theatre at the Cochrane Theatre, reminds us of how rare it is to find genuinely amusing seasonal fare for children; this is an anarchically silly satire which neither patronises its audience nor relies on crummy recycled pop songs and ‘c’ list celebs for its appeal.

The story is sublimely stupid. Faz and his feeble-minded assistant Twoo, whilst setting a fiendishly ingenious rat trap for the pesky rodent they believe has been nibbling at their sausages, inadvertently drop their ‘paraphernalia’ case on weedy Baron Wadd, hopeless misfit and suitor to Old King Cole’s troublesome daughter Daphne.

Jump to Wembley stadium, where the pleasingly peripheral King has set up a sporting contest between the preferred candidate, sleek, handsome, sporty Cyril the Fiddler, and the puny Baron, and we have opportunities galore for dirty tricks and extreme silliness, as we follow the boxing, long jump and fencing competitions, guided by a suitably earnest commentator.

The second half transports us into the corridors of Buckingham Palace, where we witness Faz and Twoo’s attempts, via the ‘Messy Clothes Wag Trap’ — and eagerly assisted by members of the audience — to disrupt Daphne’s wedding to the dashing, muscle-bound, sun-tanned Cyril.

Got the picture? The show’s pure Beano and Dandy, with a hint of Dashiel Hammett, and pokes uproarious fun at the goody-goody stuff which used to be shoved at kids through the pages of The Eagle and is still peddled in pantos and kids’ shows the length and breadth of the country.

And why isn’t there more of it? The night I was there it was difficult to decide who was laughing loudest: the kids, encouraged to scream at Cyril then blow him over, or their parents, guffawing at the sheer lunacy of it all.

Campbell’s script has been tinkered with to bring it up-to-date, and there’s the odd song here and there, but essentially it’s the same show that’s been doing the business with both young and old since 1967. Maybe it’s time Campbell, chuckling in the audience with what appeared to be three generations of his family, set Faz and Twoo, and their astounding gifts for trap-based mischief on Robin Hood, Dick Whittington et al, sparing parents the drudge of dragging their offspring to dreary pantos year after year.

And though the cast at The Cochrane could do with sharpening up their delivery here and there, it’s an engaging production, suitably idiotic, and brimming with inventive slapstick, daft sound effects and eccentric props. And the kids love every minute of it.

Charismatic Nick Hagget as The Amazing Faz, and Ben Fox, his twittish sidekick, make a fine double act, plotting and scheming to no great effect other than that of general mayhem. James Cash struts his muscles — and red underpants — to hilarious effect, whilst Baron Wadd (Daniel Crute) falls over his bandy legs a lot. Leah Fletcher (Daphne), Malcolm James (King), and Angela Bain (Queen Brenda) squabble much like our own dysfunctional Royals, and Simon Nock’s enigmatic pauses, as the MC, may well attract the attention of the German academics unless he’s very careful.

If, like me, you find the sound of kids’ laughter irresistible, then make sure Old King Cole is on your list of attractions this festive season. Better still, book to see it twice…just to make absolutely sure.

John Biggins © 2004

Originally published on R&V 04.12-04

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Jots from a Small Apt.

Largely @ Liberty

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy

lynz real cooking

lynz real life

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

barneyhoskyns.com

The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Left Handed Lottie

Drawing and painting on an ipad

Atelier 88

More than just rooms

The Sleeping Hare

Art by Lottie Nevin

Pacific Paratrooper

This WordPress.com site is Pacific War era information

beetleypete

The musings of a Londoner, now living in Norfolk

Vegan Books For Children

books from Little Chicken, Honestly Books and Violet's Vegan Comics

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

My Life as an Artist (2)

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Violet's Vegan Comics

Virtual Vegan Comics for Children

Two Rooms Plus Utilities

Written from the heart, this is the unadulterated truth of live with multiple chronic illnesses and being housebound. My life open for you to follow. Please join me

kickingthecat

How current policy is little more than kicking the cat....

Matt's History Blog

Hopefully interesting snippets and thoughts

David Hencke

Westminster and Whitehall news investigations

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

BRIDGET WHELAN writer

August is archive month. Posts from the past

P.A. Moed

Creative Exploration in Words and Pictures

creartfuldodger

collage/mixed media artist

My Dad Is A Goldfish

Caring for a demented dad

Scope's Blog

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

Art Studio of a Country Woman

Painting My World with My Heart

e-Tinkerbell

Literature, books , sport and whatever intrigues me

AT A GENTLE PACE - Bridget Whelan's lifestyle travel blog

for people who would try anything except whitewater rafting (probably)

reviewdonkey

My personal opinions about.......stuff (as if you care!)

A Teacher's Reflections

Thirty Years of Wonder

The Theatre Guild Newsletter

Celebrating 98 years on Broadway!

Pen and Pension

Immerse yourself in Georgian and Regency England

Scleroderma Guy

It's Not A Life Sentence. It's A Life. Sentence

Lives Our Ancestors Left Behind

What were their stories for us?

REDFLAGFLYING

Dictatorship is good. If the Dictator is me.

J.M. Weselby @ Magpie Creative Writing Services

because all writers are magpies at heart...

LibDem Fischer

The world of politics

MovieBabble

The Casual Way to Discuss Movies

CineMuseFilms

Freelance Film Critic

%d bloggers like this: