Review: retro romp that certainly doesn’t dampen the spirits!

“Don’t Wake the Damp”, by Kill the Beast theatre company, is on at the Lowry Studio until Saturday 29th October.

This show is fast-paced, brilliantly bonkers and ridiculously funny, and had the audience laughing along from the opening (very catchy) song. It starts off with definite shades of Power Rangers, as we were introduced to the sparkly and exuberant ‘stars’ of a budget space TV adventure of the future, called The Crystal Continuum. It became clear very early on, from the presentation and tone of the jokes, that we were in for a fast and furious romp with plenty of childlike fun, silly songs and daft dances – and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Once the show and characters have been introduced, the scene changes to a crumbling tower block which the Council needs to clear of the remaining tenants, because the ‘damp is rising’. Juniper Berry, the former leotard-clad sex bomb from the TV show, is now a lonely old woman, shuffling around on dodgy legs, and the arrival of the man from the council starts off an increasingly sinister chain of events in the basement, which brings some of the residents together in a last-ditch fight to save their home and, ultimately, the earth.

Four actors play all the parts and the scenes were cleverly changed by projecting images onto canvas screens, which were moved around to create different features, from the TV to an apartment, the lift and the basement, where the damp is lying in wait. Ridiculous it may be, but it was certainly a welcome bit of light-hearted relief that was genuinely uplifting.

The standout performance, for me, was the actress playing Juniper Berry, whose ditsy on-screen antics starkly contrast with the bitter and disillusioned cynic she has become. A flick of a cape, that hides the leotard with a housecoat, serves to switch the characters seamlessly onstage and the older character really delivered some stand-out lines that reminded me very much of (Father Ted’s) Mrs Doyle, at times, which is actually quite fitting in terms of the tone of the production, as there certainly were plenty of moments of surreal zaniness and retro cheesiness.

Don’t underestimate the show and think that it’s throwaway nonsense however. A lot of thought, great production and timing, memorable (if daft) songs and a solid ensemble performance make this a must-see piece of genuine fringe entertainment and I, for one, was really glad that the Lowry gave me the opportunity to see it on my doorstep. The show is actually making a welcome return to the Lowry Studio, where it started life before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe and much deserved acclaim. Book while you still can, as it ends on Saturday. I can’t think of a better way to spend 75 minutes!

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