Reviews Published 24 November 2014

Hunter & Johnny

Camden People's Theatre ⋄ 19th – 22nd November 2014

Chasing dragons.

Tim Bano

I was somewhere around Warren Street on the edge of Bloomsbury when the Sudafed began to take hold. I had a cold or something that I think I caught from my dad, but it was OK because it felt appropriate to be so drugged up if I was going to see a play about Hunter S. Thompson. Sure, there were no huge bats in the sky and I wasn’t feeling paranoid or anything but my sinuses felt so gloriously decongested as I pushed on towards Camden People’s Theatre.

The show had been on in Edinburgh, I remember noticing flyers or something. I hadn’t seen it. It was kind of cold outside, so the warmth from the theatre was nice. Some guy dressed as Johnny Depp shook my hand as I went in, but I just kind of smiled anxiously, sat down and dropped a couple of Strepsils, hoping their effect would last the hour.

It turned out this guy was not Johnny Depp. He was Adam El Hagar, dressed with that hat that Johnny Depp always wears and those sunglasses Johnny Depp always wears and that little strokeable goatee that Johnny Depp always has. Actually, this guy El Hagar had Johnny Depp down to a tee. He carried himself with the same chilled demeanour and creepy modesty that Johnny Depp has in interviews, and imitated this little tight-mouthed face that Johnny Depp insists on using. Then El Hagar pretended to be Johnny Depp pretending to be Hunter and jerked his shoulders and twirled his fingers just like Johnny Depp does when he’s playing one of his weird characters: Sparrow, Scissorhands, Wonka.

There was some kind of story. Johnny Depp was going to play Hunter S Thompson in a film version of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas so he went to Thompson’s house and stayed in his basement. If this play is anything to go by, they went on loads of trips and ended up in Cuba and then Thompson died and was fired out of a cannon by Johnny Depp. In the meantime they were just messing around in this basement, snorting sherbet like little Wolves of Wall Street. There was loads of random stuff everywhere: guitar, Tropicana, TNT barrel.

Hunter came on stage. Well, Sam Coulson dressed in shorts, shades and a floppy sunhat. He was holding something that looked like a rake, but I don’t think it was a rake. More like a trowel strapped to a pole. And, Jesus, he was shouting. Every single line was a bellow, gallons of saliva spewing from his beleaguered tonsils and all the while clenching this little cigarette between his lips that’s just flopping around. A hybrid of Doc Brown from Back To The Future and Brian Blessed. I can’t take all this I’m thinking. I fish around in my bag – nothing. Just a furry little Smint stuck at the bottom. I swallow it, hoping it will be enough.

Jesus! What just happened? Somebody just threw 20 Beanie Babies at Hunter and Johnny. Scorch! That was one of them, I used to have that one. He was a dragon. Had a purplish tinge and his wings were made of foil. It was all getting a bit much. “What’s in the box,” Johnny Depp asked Hunter. “Would you like some? It’s a 3 day commitment.” Johnny Depp took it anyway.

It was turning into a crazy evening, especially when they started dancing and they were the best of friends. But after the film was made Johnny Depp had less time for Hunter. “I’m doing another film. For Tim.” “FUCKING BURTON!” Hunter screamed. Sure, fucking Burton. Johnny Depp and Hunter had had a good time together. I’d had a good time. But it was over, my nose was getting ready for a sputum deluge so I went home, snorted some Lemsip and tried to stave off the inevitable for another day.


Tim Bano

Tim is a freelance arts writer and theatre critic. He writes regularly for Time Out, The Stage and other publications. He is co-creator of Pursued By A Bear, Exeunt Magazine's theatre podcast.

Hunter & Johnny Show Info

Produced by d’Animate

Choreography by Michael Rivers

Cast includes Adam El Hagar and Sam Coulson




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