views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

King Chaos
Tristan Bates Theatre
11th August 2015


Cliff Chapman and Adam Joselyn as Tyler and Gary

Photography provided by Bad Bat Productions

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Give a man control of the galaxy and well, everyone starves. When Tyler (Cliff Chapman) and his sidekick Gary (Adam Joselyn) seize the throne from evil King Jeffrey (Robert Dearn), they immediately fall at the first hurdle of knowing what to do with their new-found powers. If you remember this hapless duo from Dead Static or Pilgrim Shadow, you probably didn't expect them to win the rebellion against The Syndicate and it seems they didn't expect to win either. It's a good thing King Jeffrey's assistant, Sponge (Emma Stirling) is so willing to defect and help them out.

King Chaos is the third and final instalment in the Future Boys trilogy, and is the last time you'll see Tyler and Gary accidentally winning at anything. It does however stand on its own, with a handy recap early on in the show, with the pair explaining how they met and what happened in the last one. Playwright and director Steve Jordan's script is peppered with plenty of references - Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones - pretty much anything geeky and/or sci-fi related apart from Red Dwarf. I guess he's just sick of the comparisons.

Newcomer Dearn plays King Jeffrey as a Blackadder-esque fool - when first introduced to Gary, despite being on different sides, they're like two peas in a pod. They're both incredibly dumb and have ended up where they are through sheer dumb luck. Tyler tells Gary what to do, Sponge does the same for Jeffrey. As for Sponge, she's very yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir. Calm and detached, she claims she acts for the crown because she doesn't want to die, it's that simple. There's no flicker of emotion as she says this, reminding me a little bit of Kryten with this apparent inability to care or act in her own interests, but you didn't catch me saying that. Definitely no hint of a giant red starship in this review. It's just a comedy in space.

Some of the jokes feel like they've been written in for the company's benefit rather than the audience's - repeated references to Swindon for example just don't feel particularly obvious, and the Fun House music played before the action kicks off, again, seems like it's not really there for us. However, most of the gags do land well, and are assisted by the cast's wonderful sense of timing. Just as King Jeffrey has found himself in the middle of utter madness, Dearn has walked into a tight-knit group of creatives where all kinds of crazy things are going on, and he's adapted well. It's not apparent that he hasn't worked with Chapman, Joselyn and Stirling before; the on-stage dynamic between all of them is very close.

Props are minimal, and deliberately a bit amateur, with a shiny gold-coloured coronet and weapons which look like they came from the local pound store. It's a bit cheesy and a bit fringey, and that's okay, because it underlines just how silly it is that someone like King Jeffrey would ever be in power or Tyler and Gary would ever be intrepid space heroes. The only serious thing about this show is the underlying message that power can and does corrupt.

If you've seen Jordan's work at either or both of the last two Camden Fringes, this is your chance to say goodbye to his characters and watch as one last time they stumble to glory. It however won't be the last time this motley bunch come together to entertain us - Bad Bat have established themselves as seriously hot talent in sci-fi comedy and will surely continue to capitalise on that well-earned reputation. In space, no one can hear you scream. In the Tristan Bates, everyone can you hear you laughing. Because you are.

King Chaos opened on 10th August and runs until 15th August 2015 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)

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