Features Published 13 September 2015

Feeding The Beast

It's hard to say, but Tom Wicker and Stewart Pringle might be a little bit excited about an announcement from surreal comedy mongers Kill The Beast.
Stewart Pringle

Offstage, no one can hear you scream.

<crackle of static>

If you’re watching this, it’s already too late for me. I’m recording this on VHS because THEY have infected the internet and taken over social media.

It’s just me and a bunch of intrepid kids left. One of them is a computer genius, another is misunderstood and the third’s the cool one drawn in unwillingly.

And I’m a 35-year-old theatre reviewer.

We’ve got to save the world.

It started innocently enough. They called themselves Kill the Beast and they put on shows at the Edinburgh Festival. But then they began to spread. Soon, they were everywhere. Making people laugh.

We thought their shows were just brilliantly clever, funny and wonderfully staged pastiches of shlock horror. We didn’t notice the change at first. BUT THEN THE LAUGHTER DIDN’T STOP.

People started wandering the streets like zombies, dead-eyed, clutching flyers for the next Kill the Beast show. They stopped sleeping. They stopped eating.

Soon there were reports of bright lights over the Lowry in Manchester. Families left their homes. Some were never seen again.

There’s just a few of us now. We’re on the run. There have been reports that people who have dared to criticise Kill the Beast have been attacked by rabid mobs of fans and carried away into the night.

We’re determined to find out where Kill the Beast really come from, and what their plans are for the human race. Because it’s increasingly clear that the seeds were planted long ago.

I had a friend – let’s call him Stewart Pringle. We lost him to the fanatics just days ago. In his memory, I’m going to read out his final words. He left them in a letter down the back of the sofa.

As you’ll hear, it’s clear they got him by the end, but I think he figured out where it started.

And maybe that’s where the hope is.

<rustle of pages and a cough>

“It was 1988 and I was three years old, and I already watched far too much television. My favourite programme, of course, was Doctor Who, which at that point went out on Wednesday evenings because this was back when everyone in television wanted to usher it into a termination cubicle like some tragic, lame Gallifreyan dog. And because this was a period in which my dad was pushing Betamax in a big way we didn’t have any proper videos, just a single grainy self-recorded one with fragments of Short Circuit from when it was on at Christmas and half of Song of the South, and because I was three years old, because of all of that I watched an awful lot of children’s television.

One of the shows that I didn’t particularly like but that passed the time was Why Don’t You?, an absolutely bog-standard run-of-the-mill magazine show with the laudable if self-defeating goal of getting kids to spend less time watching children’s television and go and do something interesting instead, like baking Mars Bar Cakes or digging a rudimentary pond. Basic stuff. Went down easy. Not particularly engaging but it can’t be All Trapdoor, All The Time, can it? The world just isn’t made like that.”

<a laptop is opened up>

I saved a clip of the show ‘Stewart’ is talking about on to my laptop – before BeastNet took control of YouTube:


<reading is resumed, nervously>

“So it was a bit of a surprise half-way through 1988 when the gang from Why Don’t You?, a rag-tag bunch of kids who did all the Mars Bar Cake baking and pond digging, discovered a bank of unimaginably complex computers hosting a malevolent, ultra-powerful artificial intelligence living in their basement, that seemed to possess fragments of the consciousness of one of their dead friends. Or something. And then they had to destroy it. They still dug ponds and they still made Mars Bar Cakes, but they also fought a war of dubious super-imposed, day-glo animation against this evil avatar of our encroaching cyber-future. Even as a three year old, it was pretty clear the wheels had come off somewhere down the line, and it was fucking awesome.

Twenty years later, it was only a slight surprise to discover that this lurch into the sublimely super-weird was masterminded by Russell T Davies, after someone at the BBC left the keys to Why Don’t You? lying around somewhere and he picked them up, locked everyone out, and had his wicked way with it.

Which is all a (very) long way round to explaining why when Kill the Beast, a theatre company whose coolness exhausts adjectives, announced that they’ve spent the first few months of this year ‘gorging [themselves] on the horror sci-fi flicks of the 1980’s…the glorious gusto of Bucky O’Hare…and the cheerful despondency of Byker Grove’ I logged the living shit onto www.northernrail.org/northern/careers/drivers.

And I created myself an account.

Because let me tell you, ladies and gents, I’m going to be driving this hype-train pretty bloody damn well hard.”

<sound of papers stuffed into a pocket>

That’s all I’ve got time for. We’ve got to go, quickly. There are footsteps outside. I can hear people chanting ‘Beast, Beast, Beast, Beast.’

Someone’s shoved a flyer under the door. I mustn’t look.

I mustn’t.

Oh no.

It’s too late. I can feel it inside me. I’m changing.

Don’t…

Wake…

The Damp.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAH….

<screen goes black>

Find out more about Kill The Beast (and join the hype train) on their website here

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Stewart Pringle

Writer of this and that and critic for here and there. Artistic director of the Old Red Lion Theatre.

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