Kill the Beast: Don’t Wake the Damp

It’s amazing the sort of things you see at the Fringe. Upon walking into Kill the Beast’s Don’t Wake the Damp, I did not expect to be seeing a show in which the highlight character is a council planner from 2035 called Terry. He’s got a neon badge. I love him.

Don’t Wake the Damp smashes Mystery Science Theater 3000 into Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, into the Quatermass Experiment, a slightly meta candy-flavoured parody of under-budgeted sci-fi shows rubbing up against domestic life in future Britain. Expect mystery, monsters, and a lot of jokes. There are a lot of jokes. They’re seeded liberally throughout most lines of dialogue, the line between plot-development and gag is thin. What results is packed and efficient writing. As fast as the jokes do come, they know when to let a punchline breathe.

It’s superbly acted, aside from a couple of quite glaring mistakes in delivery. As mentioned, uptight council planner Terry is the stand-out, largely due to the numerous physical ticks imbued by a campy, animated performance. All the cast do an excellent job, one made even more admirable for their constant changes of costume and inspired use of props. Four people inhabit around a dozen characters, often chopping between at a seconds notice. It’s really remarkable. They even move the backdrops themselves, upon which dynamic projections paint the setting. It’s a thoroughly developed setting at that, another strength of the writing. There’s real world-building here, even if it is completely silly like everything else. It’s not a plausible future, but a believable one.

The music is genuinely wonderful and the only possible complaint about the songs is that there’s only a smattering of them. On the surface not much of a complaint, but when it dives head-on into musical is when Don’t Wake the Damp is best, and it’s a little disappointing it doesn’t do so more. The music is also pretty top-heavy, which felt a little misleading as the show settled into itself and largely left the early musical material behind. Superbly choreographed dancing accompanies the campy 80’s tunes, leaving you with a sense of mild dread if you spend too long imagining the amount of rehearsal this thing takes.

It’s goofy, daft, dark, cynical, sunny, and smart all at once. Plus it’s got tentacles in it, which is always good. All it needs is more songs.

★★★★

Keiran Burnett

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