theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
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
Largely @ Liberty
Art and the philosophy of life
Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy
lynz real life
Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...
The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.
Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general
A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.
Drawing and painting on an ipad
More than just rooms
Art by Lottie Nevin
This WordPress.com site is Pacific War era information
The musings of a Londoner, now living in Norfolk
books from Little Chicken, Honestly Books and Violet's Vegan Comics
Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance
an irreverent blog of old movies
Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever
Virtual Vegan Comics for Children
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
How current policy is little more than kicking the cat....
Hopefully interesting snippets and thoughts
Westminster and Whitehall news investigations
Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.
August is archive month. Posts from the past
Creative Exploration in Words and Pictures
collage/mixed media artist
Caring for a demented dad
Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.
Painting My World with My Heart
Literature, books , sport and whatever intrigues me
for people who would try anything except whitewater rafting (probably)
My personal opinions about.......stuff (as if you care!)
Thirty Years of Wonder
Celebrating 98 years on Broadway!
Immerse yourself in Georgian and Regency England
It's Not A Life Sentence. It's A Life. Sentence
What were their stories for us?
Dictatorship is good. If the Dictator is me.
because all writers are magpies at heart...
The world of politics
The Casual Way to Discuss Movies
Freelance Film Critic