REVIEW: Kenneth Watton’s Bedtime Chatshow: Take Two
Smoking jackets under smoking jackets: Jamie P Robson unwraps this absurd delight.
Hounded by the bitter October air, the promise of a cosy, one-off evening in the company of the affable Kenneth Watton was certainly a charming one; and I can happily say it was no disappointment.
The Corpus Playroom was transformed into a facsimile living room, possessing a homely, welcoming ambience into which the audience could make itself comfortable, relaxing into their seats accompanied by the chat show’s talented, dressing gown-clad band.
The show begins (ignoring for a moment the disorientating, but essential, flashback opening) in a relatively believable mode: our charming host, sporting a wonderful smoking jacket, begins to introduce his guests. A ‘devil’s advocate’ documentarian (she makes documentreplies: Blackfish? “The whales deserved it”) is portrayed with prim self-satisfaction by Yasmin Freeman, whilst Bethany Hutchinson’s late-career singer exhibits the self-love of an out-of touch star. Yaseen Kader’s fast talking motivational speaker (who superbly bamboozles individual audience members, along with dear Kenneth) commands the room, oozing unctuous (and hilarious) superciliousness.
Dillon Mapletoft frankly delights with his performance as a boxer who has undergone a recent epiphany, sharing his insights on topics from pseudo-philosophy to his recently renounced boxing (“I realised … it’s just punching people in the face.”). The earnest delivery of every revelation was pitch-perfect.
But just as Kenneth at one point removes his smoking jacket to reveal — that’s right — another smoking jacket underneath, this show peeled back its apparent interest in the only slightly exaggerated (very amusing) satire of chat shows to become something altogether more curious — and even more hilarious. Suddenly the stage is taken over by the decapitated head of a friend Kenneth left behind on a battlefield (a character imbued with remarkable life by the fabulously expressive show-stealer Henry Wilkinson).
Next appears the human manifestation of hopelessness and despair: excellently played by Rob Oldham. The character offers a compelling sales pitch for one-way flights to Switzerland. The rapid introduction of all sorts of exciting narrative twists is supported by the consistent quality and frequency of jokes, which carry the audience happily along with the on-stage mania, all the way to a singsong ending of exactly the right amount of schmaltz.
Finally — to save the biggest tip of the hat till last — all due credit must go to Kyle Turakhia’s Kenneth Watton — the hapless ringmaster of this marvellously surreal circus, who, with a gentile smile and bourgeois style, serves as the perfect pivot around which the beautiful chaos of the show rotates.
If there’s a Take Three (and I hope there is), then you have just perfect reason to stay up past your bedtime.