Pros: An engaging, frantic romp through adventure fiction led by two seriously high-energy performers.
Cons: Don’t expect a subtext – there are no revelations here, just bawdy fun.
Back in the days before computer games, a series of books allowed readers to direct their own adventures by making choices at key points. Do you go down into the cellar? Turn to page 68. Or up to the loft? Turn to page 74. The mechanism was crude, but the effect was engaging.
Decide-A-Quest, part of the 2015 Camden Fringe, is a comedy show based on these books. You’re welcomed into the theatre by Tim Dawkins and Edwin Wright, two larger-than-life actors with extravagant facial hair and pantomime costumes. ‘My name is Narra Tor’, intones Dawkins, imbuing the task of the narrator with a mystical significance. Wright plays the character You (as in, You find yourself in a dark forest) – a would-be explorer with a pathological fear of owls, who joins the search for the mythical Yeti and who discovers along the way that wolves can be tamed by the sound of soft rock classics played on pan pipes.
With high comedy, punning wordplay and frenzied action, the pair guide the audience through a fast-paced evening of chaotic fun. Key decisions are voted on by the audience, which then determines the action taken by the duo: it may lead from the foothills of Everest to Las Vegas, or the distant planet PaGe 69. Every evening has a different course, we’re told, as the cast jump to the page to which the audience directs them. Fortunately the actors are able to resort to the magical powers of an audience member dubbed Limpy the Finger Monk, whose outsize cardboard finger has the supreme ability to turn back the page. And indeed, some decisions have to be made two or three times, as the wrong choice can lead to sudden death – or, even worse, to the fate of being condemned to life as a peg salesman in Basildon.
The set and props are deliberately, outrageously low key. The prize for completing the quest is distributed from a Lidl carrier bag; a camp fire is printed on a couple of laminated sheets of A4; the backdrop screen is a crumpled sheet suspended from a couple of poles. Yet, projected onto this backdrop is a slick, professional series of slides and moving images, displaying both animated pages from the book and photographic backgrounds to set the scene, mixed with clips from video games during the many action sequences.
While you won’t find not a lot of subtlety here, there’s enough hilarity to sustain the audience throughout the hour-long show. It’s a fast, lively and boisterous evening that’s high on testosterone and action, as the high-energy pair of actors romp through scene after scene. While one or two scenes drag a little, some are genuinely moving: the final show tunes duet moved some of the audience to tears. A great entertainment, if not an intellectual feast.
Created and performed by: Tim Dawkins and Edwin Wright
Producer: Theatre of a Thousand Names
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.