Reviews Edinburgh Published 30 August 2012

Twonkeys Kingdom

The Hive ⋄ until 26th August 2012

A surreal parallel universe.

Colin Bramwell

Twonkeys Kingdom is the product of an immersive imagination. Paul Vickers orchestrates the proceedings, and his stage is essentially a large toybox: his various props include a windmill, a prosthetic nose, a ship’s wheel, and a large collection of puppets. Each is briefly used and then discarded, as Vickers switches topic or breaks into song. The show as a whole is a chaotic experience, which at times requires some suspension of disbelief; but it also combines hilarity with intrigue in a way that elicits strong feelings of endearment towards him as a performer.

The kingdom itself is a bizarre parallel universe, a place populated by the actor Lon Chaney and the doomed descendants of Humpty Dumpty, and ruled over by the iron fist of Twonkey herself. Although Vickers does use his props and puppets to physically create this world, it is his idiosyncratic imagery which really brings the kingdom to life. The imagery itself is primarily employed for comic purposes. At one point, Vickers enters the audience with his ship’s wheel, makes audience members choose sets of knickers from it, and uses this as a basis to guess at their oddly specific sexual preferences. The segment was not particularly intricate, but, given its combination of ribaldry, bluntness and the surreal, it was hugely entertaining.

A consistent comic thread was maintained throughout all of these little vignettes. In fact, it was interesting to measure the effect on the audience. Marek Larwood’s latest Fringe show sent up a certain kind of stand-up comedian who manipulates rather than entertains. Mainstream comedy always contains moments where pressure is put on the audience to laugh at specific jokes or stories. The refreshing thing about watching Vickers as a comedian is that his complete unwillingness to structure the ‘laughs’ in his show allows a spectator to have a more individual respone. Often I would look round to witness, amongst a sea of perplexed faces, one or two people creasing up with laughter—a rare and, I think, refreshing sight.

Though Twonkeys Kingdom is very funny it also contains a good deal of pathos. The effect is discombobulating and more akin to cabaret in placesVickers offers us original pieces of music. Some of these are more obviously comic – ‘Goat Girl’, a song about a young goat-herding girl in medieval Austria who ends up being sent on a psychedelic trip, is a particular highlight – but some are not intended to be all that funny. All suit the tone of the show; Vickers is, in his own right, a successful musician—he fronted John Peel favourites Dawn of the Replicants—and Twonkeys Kingdom feels like something between a comedy show and a concert.

Admittedly, some of the audience were often perplexed by all this, but most, however, were quite willing to enter Twonkeys ramshackle Kingdom, and seemed to enjoy their sojourn through the strange land. My experience of the free shows at this year’s festival has been frequently disappointing but this was my personal highlight of the Fringe.


Colin Bramwell is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Twonkeys Kingdom Show Info

Written by Paul Vickers




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