The Prawn King

Mon 5th – Sat 10th August 2013

reviews

Amber Segal

at 03:27 on 8th Aug 2013

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An actual Macbeth to review later, I was quite excited to see 'The Prawn King' this afternoon – ‘It’s basically Macbeth.. underwater.. with prawns’ reads the quote in the tagline. The billing as a ‘Lion King rip off’ was even more intriguing. Sadly, this description applies to a mere 5 of the 45 minute production. With commedia dell’ arte faces, a modern-day London setting and a meta-theatrical plot, the play is somewhat confused.

The 'actress' character, Isabella, spent much of her time on stage screeching. She is louder than her (admittedly fabulous) fucshia dress and extremely grating to listen to. This culminates in her bellowing ‘I have a headache’ at the top of her voice. Yes, I get the joke, but now I have a headache too and it wasn’t worth it. The actress embodied the character of Columbina well with a west country lilt. The actor playing Cavalione had me chuckling with his expressions, though these, like so much of the play, became repetitive. Although the actor playing Zanni was clearly good at impressions, there were shoehorned into his character incomprehensibly. The slapstick was tiresome, especially between Pantalione and Zanni.

The Space on the Mile is a small one and actors have the luxury of a close audience to which they do not need to shout. All of the cast, Kronenberg almost excepted, spent most of the performance yelling their lines at one another at the tops of their voices. Some of these lines, however, did have me laughing. My favourite begins ‘My pashmina, Columbina! My coat…’ but the end is too rude to print in a family-friendly review. Others, some scatological, were less of a success.

Eventually we come to the play within the play: Prawn King within Prawn King. This is a musical medley sung in sea-life costumes, the lyrics made up of mainly Disney puns. ‘Don’t cry for me, Langoustina’ is a highlight. The farce beforehand is unoriginal with a hit and miss script, but the music itself is quite enjoyable. If they had committed to this premise and cut the meta-theatre, there could have been an interesting show. Yo-yoing between Punch and Judy, innuendo and a Disney appreciation society, this performance did not feel quite ready for the stage.

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Matthew Davies

at 10:09 on 8th Aug 2013

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Let’s get this out of the way: I actually quite enjoyed ‘The Prawn King.’ The script may have been filled with crude humour and inane non sequiturs, and the plot may have made very little sense at all, but it also featured some cracking puns and more than a little imagination. Above all, the play’s cast and writers demonstrated a willingness to delve deep into the rabbit hole of absurdity and revel in it – and they certainly seemed as if they were having fun.

The Commedia dell’Arte and Disney musicals don’t exactly sound like the most natural of bedfellows, but the creators of ‘The Prawn King’ have aimed for a look which splices together elements of both. The show didn’t boast any eye-catching costumes, and scenery was nowhere to be found, but the use of white facepaint on all of the characters (and masks on two of them) made for a reasonably pleasant aesthetic.

Such a get-up might have risked obscuring the acting if each character hadn’t overacted quite so much. The entire cast seemed highly enthusiastic, and the actress playing Columbina in particular manages to pull off her lines with charm. Besides her the acting is variable: the actor playing Cavalieri is mildly likeable as a posh, womanising buffoon, while the actor playing Zanni puts on a thick accent which grates more than it endears.

The entire cast seem more than happy to buy into the script, which is actually quite funny. Although at times labouring running jokes a bit too much, and relying often on exaggerated slapstick and absurd lines, once or twice the writers subverted familiar jokes in order to gain laughs. Of which they had plenty – Shakespeare it ain’t, but ‘The Prawn King’ is definitely entertaining, if a bit of a mess. By the end the play devolved into real insanity, featuring a medley of reworded Disney songs. This isn’t fantastic – the cast aren’t singers by trade – but you have to applaud their willingness to cross into the threshold of true absurdity.

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