Writer: Rob Ellis
Director: Alister Hallum
Reviewer: Clare Boswell
Rob Ellis’s ‘Fetish Knight’s’ has come on quite a journey. Having wowed audiences at Manchester Pride’s Fringe in 2011 and receiving a string of rave reviews in the Lowry Studio revival in 2012, Ellis has once again resurrected his bawdy, crowd – pleasing production.
‘The setting for ‘Fetish Knights’ is the Associates Bar – a male-only venue which to the unwitting Canal Street regulars frequenting more mainstream venues such as Cruz and Via Fossa, is reputed (and slightly a feared) as the ‘dangerous’ club of the Village, inhabited by the most masculine, seedy and leather clad of men. However in reality the world of the Associates Bar is far cosier, with typical conversations revolving around Quiche, Corrie and the declining standard of M&S food.
It is undeniable that Rob Ellis has written a hugely entertaining play. The comedy is sharp and fast paced, with some ingenious gags. However where the writing is slightly less successful is in its attempt at counteracting the laughs with emotional drama, mainly based around the unravelling life of the play’s protagonist Sean-John Parkinson. The sub-plot relationship between Jake and Karl also never seems quite believable and the numerous twists nearing the end of the script are more akin to a ‘Dallas’ re-run than the hard hitting revelations that Ellis appears to be striving for.
Having said this, the 9-strong cast breathe a warmth and likeability into the characters which gets the audience on side from the outset. Bernard Latham, although slightly lacking the razor-sharp comic timing of his predecessor Dean Sullivan, gives one of the most empathetic performances of the evening, as Oncologist Kenneth-Cadbury-Love. Dan Cooper and Neil Ashton both give convincing performances as Karl Jackson and Jake Malone and work hard to flesh out the underdeveloped love-story plot line. However it is Sue Devaney as house-wife turned over-night reality star Janice Spendlove who truly steals the show, with her impeccable stage presence and a performance which would have made Wood and Walters proud.
Alister Hallum’s direction is generally slick and well-paced, and the split-staging works well in conveying the internal and external aspects of the bar effectively. The multi-media elements are executed well and serve as a nice breather from the drama of the ‘Associates Bar’. The physical theatre sequences seem a little contrived and perhaps tighter choreography is needed to make these moments more visually appealing.
Overall, ‘Fetish Knight’s’ is undoubtedly a great night’s entertainment. It’s jam-packed with quotable one-liners and ridiculous characters, and this is certainly where Ellis’s script excels.
Runs until Sat 2nd Feb.