King Chaos, Tristan Bates Theatre - Camden Fringe Review

Produced by Ellen Gallagher and Steve Jordan for Bad Bat Productions.

Fresh from their successful stint at the Etcetera Theatre with Global Mega Incorporated, theatre company Bad Bat Productions returns to the stage with the latest instalment of their space saga with hapless 'freedom fighters' Tyler Smith and Gary Patches (Cliff Chapman and Adam Joselyn).

Pressganged by the rebel alliance a.k.a.' the Federation', Gary and Tyler's mission is to sneak into the palace of the despotic ruler King Jeffrey (leader of the 'evil' empire known as The Syndicate), take him prisoner and pave the way for the Federation's transition to power. By luck rather by design, Gary and Tyler succeed in incarcerating Jeffrey (Robert Dearn) and in convincing his P.A. Sponge (Emma Stirling) to work for them, but instead of relinquishing his power straightaway, Gary wonders what truly is the best course of action.

Had the play continued in the same vein as its first two scenes, King Chaos would have been a very different show. Sure, the jokes about Gary's intelligence (or lack of) provided amusement, but King Chaos shifts up a gear when the show is more obviously a satire about politics and how power can corrupt even the least ambitious of people.

Through the humour, the arguments made for pragmatism versus idealism when in power make a lasting impression, especially as Tyler and Gary are essentially Trinculo and Stefano (from The Tempest) who find they unwittingly actually have the power to change things. Dearn's King Jeffery is cut from the same cloth as Hugh Laurie's Prince Regent from Blackadder III – well-meaning, but utterly clueless and 'guided' by his more savvy advisers. This leaves Sponge a.k.a the real power behind the throne, as the unashamed pragmatist. Not conforming to any stereotype, Sponge is level-headed, forward-thinking and intellectually superior to any of the men in the play.

There is one joke in the play where the illiterate Jeffrey attempt to read from a dictionary and has trouble saying "nice". However, the way it's pronounced, it comes across as "Nieztsche" (the famed philosopher who is synonymous with the argument for fascism). "Blimey!" I thought. "Clever and subtle!"

German references aside, the play isn't burdened by Sturm und Drang and the family of actors who we've gotten to know from previous shows, share the same degree of camaraderie and comic timing as before.

'Science fiction' is traditionally not associate as part of the female arena, but as this comedy shows (which was co-produced by Ellen Gallgher) it can be anything you want it to be and subvert all the established norms. And if Sponge proves anything, it's validity to the old James Brown lyric: "This is a man's world/But it would be nothing, nothing/Without a woman or a girl."

© Michael Davis

King Chaos by Bad Bat Productions runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden as part of this year’s Camden Fringe Festival, from Monday 10th August to Saturday 15th August 2015, 7.45pm

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