views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Crimplene Millionaire
4th October 2014


Avis Cockbill and Boogaloo Stu as Bev and Derek Daniels

Photography ©

With the show starting half an hour late due to another production running over, and the downstairs auditorium inexplicably freezing, the audience was not in the best of moods waiting for Crimplene Millionaire to get going. What did gameshow host Derek Daniels (Boogaloo Stu) and his wife Beverley Waverley Daniels (Avis Cockbill) do to cheer us up? Well, they threw rubbish at us and force fed us Smash with hundreds and thousands on top. That may sound slightly insane, but what is even more baffling is that the double-act did actually win us over with those antics. We may have wandered into the room slightly grumpy and tired, but by the end of the 65 minutes, we were all laugh and smiling - some even dancing - having shared an unusual but interesting night.

A great deal of effort has gone into creating the set for Derek's comeback pilot. The floor is adorned with different tiles with labels ranging from "Bin strike" to "LSD flashback" and Monopoly-style pieces have been carefully selected too, from the "ubiquitous 70s platform shoe" to the "white dog poo". It's an interactive piece, forget all hopes of a fourth wall; the audience are split into teams and play along, resulting in a certain amount of improvisation required from Stu and Cockbill. To their credit, you can't really tell what's made up on the spot and what's rehearsed - they show the same commitment as Abandoman or dare I say it, comedy stalwarts Mischief Improv. I'm sure there are joins, but the show appears seamless.

As far as façades go, this is pretty naff stuff. But dig a little deeper and what we have in front of us is a clever framing device for some biting satire. Crimplene Millionaire is as much of a game as it is an attack on a problematic era featuring political unrest, misogynistic attitudes and hidden paedophilia. Derek and Bev are presented to us as pure caricatures; Bev's grin in particular is permanently plastered on. When the camera stops rolling, Derek's (not so) secret alcoholism reveals itself, as does Bev's intelligence (yes, despite being a glamorous assistant) and her ability to handle herself - and her husband.

Avis Cockbill and Boogaloo Stu as Bev and Derek Daniels

Photography ©

Scratch the surface and they're broken, pathetic people, pretending to be upbeat and happy for the TV viewers at home. For a performance with so many luridly bright colours, Crimplene Millionaire is actually quite dark. It could go further and bring out more of those themes via off-stage character development, but as it stands, it's nonetheless engaging.

The concept has been dreamt up and written by the host himself, with Crimplene Millionaire the brainchild of singer, musician, DJ and all-round performer Stu. He's an old hand at playing larger than life characters, which is really evident here. There's a slightly different tone to Crimplene Millionaire, but the bleakness to it puts us in mind of Fortuna Burke's Laundrette Superstar. Fortuna is another character who would be a has-been, had she ever been. Both shows bring out the more sinister side and crushing disappointment to chasing celebrity.

Crimplene Millionaire can be best summed up as part-theatre, part-torture, and it would make for a great night out for stags and students alike. (I can see Stu quite easily gaining the same kind of odd cult following in university towns that Alan Fletcher enjoyed some 10 years ago.) It's a surreal experience - and I choose the word experience very deliberately; you can't opt out of being a part of the show - but it's one which is very much enjoyable if in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way. There aren't any more London dates announced at present, but I could see this taking a late night slot somewhere like the Soho Theatre, which has successfully homed such wonderfully ridiculously shows such as Winky before, and has a fringe-style space upstairs.

Rationally, I'm not quite sure why I want to see Derek and Bev again (maybe it's that syndrome), but you know what, I think I do. Hiya! I'd never have thought crimplene would be appealing, and having bags of rubbish emptied over my head isn't high on my list of fun things to do. With that said, it's not just the fabric that shines, Stu and Cockbill are a lot of fun.

Crimplene Millionaire ran on 4th October 2014 at Ovalhouse as part of Fun Palaces 2014. There are no further London dates planned at present, but the show is currently touring the UK.

Nearest tube station: Oval (Northern)

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