Writer/Director:David Cumming, Clem Garritty, Natasha Hodgson, Oliver Jones and Zoe Roberts
Composer: Ben Osborn
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
The initial production from Kill the Beast was an adaptation of an established work. Now the company return with their first original show. Whatever else you can say about He Had Hairy Hands it is certainly original.
In the 1950s a (literal) backstreet abortion fails resulting in a child whose distinguishing feature is hairy hands. Years later the village of Hemlock is troubled by a series of brutal deaths that threatens the opening of the new Historiorium. A ‘furry ninja of the moors’ is blamed. The disgraced Inspector Whitechapel (last seen teaching Ghostbuster Bums and Tums) may be the only person who can solve the case – if she can be traced in time.
The influences of the company are easily apparent (films/ videos by John Landis and the League of Gentlemen TV show). Yet the company is not content to deliver a mere tribute or parody and transcends its inspirations providing a constant delight that is screamingly funny.
He Had Hairy Hands avoids the usual pitfalls of compromise and confusion that plague shows devised by an entire company. Although it comprises a series of sketches and set pieces a unity of vision develops a cohesive show. A huge variety of styles are on offer with mime, verbal and visual puns (asked how she knew a café was haunted the inspector replies ‘The proof was in the pudding!’), a bingo caller who does not understand rhyming slang and a Town Council that conducts its business in verse. This could become self-indulgent and messy but the company displays such restraint and precision that it instead results in a constantly changing and beguiling show.
The company avoids the arch knowing style of acting instead catching a slightly exaggerated tone that seems close to genuine eccentricity. Perfect for a village where the villagers are eccentric and the mayor is convinced that a hawk is actually his son and spends his time hunting trees.
The show moves like a rocket. Animated designs by Alex Purcell projected onto a rear screen send the characters jumping around the globe and dodging a fiery building with a speed that is almost cinematic. The werewolf itself is a cheekily cut-price creature that secures howls of affection from the audience.
He Had Hairy Hands is a production in which all involved can take pride including The Lowry who supported the development of Kill the Beast. It is hard to accept that such a polished production is only the company’s second show. Can’t wait for the third.
Photo: Richard Davenport | Reviewed on 5th June 2014