Writers: Ralph Jones and Vyvyan Almond
Reviewer: James Garrington
Imagine Game of Thrones mixed with a few of Shakespeare’s history plays and touches of Lord of the Rings, but with lots of laughs, and you have something close to The Bastard King.
The one-act play is something like an extended comedy sketch, conceived, written and performed by The Awkard Silence, comedy duo Ralph Jones and Vyvyan Almond. Between them, the pair becomes a range of different characters – male, female and animal – in an epic tale of battles, intrigues, and conspiracies. The King is dead, and the heir is a baby boy fathered by the late king with a prostitute. He must be protected from all manner of factions each vying for the kingdom so that he can take his rightful place on the throne.
This is a story with many strands and multiple characters, performed with no specific costume and no props apart from a single chair. This makes it occasionally hard to keep track of where we are and who is who, as they leap from character to character, often each playing several in the same scene with nothing more than a change of accent or physicality to differentiate them – though it must be said that on the whole they do it very well, creating some memorable moments and fight scenes that might seem impossible with two performers within the limited confines of a studio theatre. In a piece of this length, with this number of characters and complexity of plot, it is no surprise that there is little in the way of detailed characterisation. In a way that doesn’t matter, as the character types are well-known by fans of historical drama, and we can flesh out the details for ourselves.
Will the heir be saved, or will someone else win the crown – the Toad King with the extraordinary tongue, the Archbishop, the Hannibal-like leader with his elephants that produce tonnes of manure to be shoveled? It actually matters little, because the joy is not in the outcome but in the telling of the tale – and though the dénouement may be a surprise, when it comes the logic behind it seems obvious.
With a series of running gags, off-the-wall non-sequiturs and strange characters it is often a bit surreal and Pythonesque, but if you are a fan of that sort of humour then you will have a very enjoyable evening.
Reviewed on 6 October 2017 | Image: Contributed