Reviews EdinburghNationalReviews Published 7 August 2016

Review: Don’t Wake The Damp at Pleasance Dome

Pleasance Dome ⋄ 4th - 29th August 2016

Brilliant, energetic, ridiculous fun: Lauren Mooney reviews another Fringe success from Kill The Beast.

Lauren Mooney
Don't Wake The Damp at Pleasance Dome.

Don’t Wake The Damp at Pleasance Dome.

The Edinburgh Fringe has a festival atmosphere that, at least where theatre’s concerned, rarely stays in the room once the lights have gone down. Have you ever tried to flyer someone who’s drinking a cider at 11.25 in the morning for a show about mental illness in a heavily religious family? I have. I did it yesterday. It’s no fun.

But fun’s the order of the day in Don’t Wake the Damp, the new show from Fringe big-hitters Kill the Beast, and fun’s the reason they remain an absolutely unmissable company year after year. With two substantial Fringe hits already under their belt, The Boy Who Kicked Pigs and He Had Hairy Hands (which you can catch again this year, because apparently they hate sleeping), the weight of expectation must feel pretty gigantic – but for my money, Don’t Wake the Damp finds them quicker, funnier, more brilliant and more daring than ever before.

Having taken their mucky paws thoroughly to nightmarish fairytales and the world of schlocky 70s horror, the Beasts set their sights on mid-80s sci-fi in Damp as they tell the story of washed-up actor Juniper Berry, formerly the sexy side-kick in beloved budget telly show The Crystal Continuum, now a lonely, washed-up old woman in a damp-filled JG Ballard-esque high rise building. With echoes of everything from Power Rangers to late-80s Doctor Who and an unforgettably cheesy theme tune from Felix Hagan, The Crystal Continuum sections are perfectly pitched, always adding to rather than detracting from the (ridiculous, brilliant) main narrative.

Gags about high-energy low-rent sci-fi feel like the perfect complement for the Beasts’ tireless character comedy, and though they still manage to weave in their love of horror in the form of a couple of great jump-scares, this feels like their most thematically integrated show yet, form and style and substance all working harmoniously together. Plus, the ever-brilliant songs thrown into the mix feel more natural and more well-suited to the action than ever before.

It’s hard to believe the Beasts started out by way of adaptation when you see how adeptly the many threads of Damp are woven together, and the show absolutely flies by. The joke hit-rate’s remarkable – but there’s also something genuinely melancholy about the slip-sliding between young Juniper and the washed-up, regret-filled older woman, now mostly invisible to the people around her. They’re an excellent ensemble, as ever, but Hodgson absolutely shines as Berry, with a strangely affecting performance that reminds you how, despite brilliant joke after brilliant joke, this company still keep one foot this side of the Theatre Fence.

It’s also their most technically adventurous show yet, which threatens to glitch a couple of times – but it’s hard to feel like this matters when (despite the amazing design) it’s always been the writing/performances of this great company that drive the shows, and when Don’t Wake the Damp is so much brilliant, energetic, ridiculous fun.


Lauren Mooney

Lauren Mooney is a writer, producer and arts administrator based in London. As well as writing for Exeunt and The Stage, Lauren works at Clean Break and is the writer-producer for Kandinsky.

Review: Don’t Wake The Damp at Pleasance Dome Show Info

Directed by Clem Garritty

Written by Kill the Beast

Cast includes David Cumming, Natasha Hodgson, Oliver Jones, Zoe Roberts

Original Music Felix Hagen, Kill the Beast



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