dontwakethedamp
Campy as a row of tents: image via The Reviews Hub

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub and published here.

Written/directed by Kill the Beast
15th-16th July 2016

What happens when our favourite celebrities grow old? Some stay in the public eye, while others fade into obscurity with not so much as an edition of An Audience With… to remember them by. Once a lycra-clad sci-fi babe on the small screen, June Berry is one of the latter sort. Now old, grey and a big fan of casseroles, she’s left her world-saving days far behind her – or has she?

Inspired by the campy music and graphics of 90s video games, Don’t Wake the Damp is Kill the Beast’s latest offbeat theatrical offering, following on from 2014’s werewolf comedy He Had Hairy Hands, which won accolades including the Manchester Theatre Award for Best Studio Production. The company are Lowry Associate Artists, and the storytelling skills and slick multimedia manoeuvring on show in horror-comedy Don’t Wake the Damp mean it’s easy to see why.

Projection designers Izaak Pardey and Ali Clarke lay on a buffet of visual delights with their settings in both June’s galaxy-trotting past and her grim future in a damp-infested tower block, while costume designs by Liz Sheard show brilliant attention to detail. The show has a running joke about the T-crossing, I-dotting administration of local councils but, in reality, it’s the company who outdo themselves in efficiency, smoothly pulling every last bit of intrigue, excitement and novelty from a story full of brilliant ideas. And the laughs? They keep flowing on with all the inevitability of that strangely powerful damp thathas infested June’s tower block…

Perhaps horror-comedy meeting 80s sci-fi isn’t the genre mash-up for everyone, but if you’re looking for a company with the skills to pull off that heady cocktail, Kill the Beast is it. The cast of five isall very strong – while Natasha Hodgson could get a smidge more nuance from grumbling old June at times, it’s impressive to watch her effortlessly switch into intergalactic starlet mode in flashbacks.

Both during and outside the show’s musical portions, the cast is perfectly choreographed, with few hiccups despite some very ambitious staging choices. Atmospheric sound zooms and twangs throughout, heightening everything to that fever pitch characteristic of the horror and sci-fi classics being invoked, as we watch Kill the Beast bring all their darkest and wackiest ideas together into a near-perfect night of laughter.

Star rating: ****.5 Near-perfect

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