‘If the supernatural doesn’t exist…. Then how come it does?’ This surprisingly philosophical question is posed, and answered, by comedy quartet Kill The Beast in their new devised show He Had Hairy Hands, playing at the Old Fire Station.
It is 1950, and in a London backstreet a highly distressed woman is giving birth to something quite hairy. Thus begins a story spanning three decades, a series of fast changing scenes in which the four talented performers switched between costumes, personas and genders to create a rich and textured comedy interlocking the lives of a pathologist with a secret (David Cumming) a mayor with even more secrets (Oliver Jones) a detective who runs a morbid aerobics class (Zoe Roberts) and a lovestruck sergeant who’s out to prove his worth (Natasha Hodgson). Twenty years after the hairy baby’s arrival, a small town full of small townsfolk is being plagued by some very mysterious deaths, and the only clues are some violent clawmarks and spilling entrails.
The characterisations are both very funny and insightful — neat summations of very heightened and caricatured roles which were performed snappily and with full force. The company adopted clownish white make-up with black lines of expression, all of which helped to diminish their own unique features to make them more adaptable to the numerous roles they each adopted. Each vignette was performed in front of a detailed, moving scene screen, depicting a countryside graveyard, a grand house, a mortuary, and so on. This was highly effective at transporting the audience between time and place, and helped to quickly develop an atmosphere for the company to bring to life — we moved from ski slopes, to a Mexican bar, to a tailor’s shop, and back into town in a matter of moments, branching out our perspectives to an international setting in order to accentuate the gravitas of the town’s grave situation.
One scene which neatly bookended the show was Roberts and Hodgson as two pompous old women, Trisha and Trisha, who met in a graveyard, each wearing huge doddery overcoats and holding dog leads which led offstage and pulled them to and fro in beautifully synchronised movements throughout their awkward, sexually charged exchange. Their faces gurned and churned with dismay and excitement as they looked at each other, then away, then at each other, and away, provoking a great deal of laughter.
The show was written with a Reeves & Mortimer-esque sense of the ludicrous, and it worked brilliantly. The surrealism and comic timing were both excellent, and made for a very unique, comic book style performance. It feels wrong to not give commendations to each of the members of this highly talented company. All four have clearly worked tirelessly in the devising and development of this show, along with co-writer and director Clem Garritty. But a particular mention should go to Zoe Roberts for her electric, gurning portrayal of Detective Whitechapel, a character on which the story pivoted — she could create laughs from the raise of a single eyebrow.
Kill The Beast are certainly a group to be hunted down by comedy lovers; in the world of fringe performance, they are truly formidable.