Twonkeys Kingdom ★★★★ Time Out
Certainly the most bizarro piece I’ve seen so far this Fringe, this is the third of Paul Vickers’s shows exploring the fantasy world of Twonkey, now installed as tyrannical (female) king of a land beyond easy description. Vickers is the outsider artist of comedy: ruddy-faced, bearded and curly-haired in t-shirt and jeans, on a stage adorned with a little yellow windmill, ship’s wheel and piles of dolls and puppets, he tells weird stories and sings rocky songs about deposed alpine centaurs, Lon Chaney and the offspring of Humpty Dumpty. It’s like peeking into an adult playroom of remarkable but decidedly sideways imagination. Basically, if you like the sound of panicked crocodile piss, crab-hunting at Voodoo Bridge and ‘another victory in the war against eggs’, this is the show for you.
Twonkeys Kingdom ★★★★ Exeunt Magazine
Twonkeys kingdom is the product of an immersive imagination. Paul Vickers orchestrates the proceedings, and his stage is essentially a large toybox: his various props include a windmill, a prosthetic nose, a ship’s wheel, and a large collection of puppets. Each is briefly used and then discarded, as Vickers switches topic or breaks into song. The show as a whole is a chaotic experience, which at times requires some suspension of disbelief; but it also combines hilarity with intrigue in a way that elicits strong feelings of endearment towards him as a performer.
The kingdom itself is a bizarre parallel universe, a place populated by the actor Lon Chaney and the doomed descendants of Humpty Dumpty, and ruled over by the iron fist of Twonkey herself. Although Vickers does use his props and puppets to physically create this world, it is his idiosyncratic imagery which really brings the kingdom to life. The imagery itself is primarily employed for comic purposes. At one point, Vickers enters the audience with his ship’s wheel, makes audience members choose sets of knickers from it, and uses this as a basis to guess at their oddly specific sexual preferences. The segment was not particularly intricate, but, given its combination of ribaldry, bluntness and the surreal, it was hugely entertaining.
A consistent comic thread was maintained throughout all of these little vignettes. In fact, it was interesting to measure the effect on the audience. Marek Larwood’s latest Fringe show sent up a certain kind of stand-up comedian who manipulates rather than entertains. Mainstream comedy always contains moments where pressure is put on the audience to laugh at specific jokes or stories. The refreshing thing about watching Vickers as a comedian is that his complete unwillingness to structure the ‘laughs’ in his show allows a spectator to have a more individual respone. Often I would look round to witness, amongst a sea of perplexed faces, one or two people creasing up with laughter—a rare and, I think, refreshing sight.
Though Twonkeys Kingdom is very funny it also contains a good deal of pathos. The effect is discombobulating and more akin to cabaret in places. Vickers offers us original pieces of music. Some of these are more obviously comic – ‘Goat Girl’, a song about a young goat-herding girl in medieval Austria who ends up being sent on a psychedelic trip, is a particular highlight – but some are not intended to be all that funny. All suit the tone of the show; Vickers is, in his own right, a successful musician—he fronted John Peel favourites Dawn of the Replicants—and Twonkeys Kingdom feels like something between a comedy show and a concert.
Admittedly, some of the audience were often perplexed by all this, but most, however, were quite willing to enter Twonkeys ramshackle Kingdom, and seemed to enjoy their sojourn through the strange land. My experience of the free shows at this year’s festival has been frequently disappointing but this was my personal highlight of the Fringe.
TWONKEYS KINGDOM MAKES THE TOP TEN FREE FRINGE SHOWS TO GO SEE IN THE SCOTSMAN:
THE musical storytelling of Edinburgh-based maverick Paul Vickers is frankly an acquired taste, but amid the ramshackle – possibly deliberately so – delivery and an approach to narrative which can only be described as stream-of-consciousness, there’s furious invention at work.
Only the first few minutes of the show proceed as billed, as Vickers introduces us to the puppet queen of his kingdom Twonkey, who’s “half-dragon, half-witch and an accountant”, before the rest veers off the road – again deliberately, although you wouldn’t know it from the bearded Vickers’s madcap gibbering and his mishaps with the assortment of knick-knacks which double as a set.
Each story is rounded off by a song, a gruff backing-track nursery rhyme propelled by Vickers’s naïve growl, like Tom Waits at a children’s party.
Among the Dadaist flights of fancy he embarks on are the tale of Humpty Dumpty’s orphaned children Dick and Darren, both members of a vicious species called roundbellies who live in windmills, and the time he acquired Lon Chaney’s imagination and book of flowers at auction. “This whole act is a triumph over disability, ladies and gentlemen,” he intones self-deprecatingly, and for a finale the BBC World Service tells us Hitler is dead.
Plus I won an award:
And the ‘Self-Publish or Perish’ winner is…
I could drag this out. I could say, 'Drum roll please'. I could wax philosophical about the decision making process and the extremely touch decisions that were debated by the judges. I could talk about self-publishing and new opportunities for writers. I could...
Sorry, I got a bit carried away. I'll get straight to the point.
The winner of the 'Self-Publish or Perish' competition is...
Itchy Grumble by Paul Vickers.
This novella and collection of short fiction won the hearts of our judges. Kirby Kana of Kirby Ink said that the manuscript had an 'extreme richness of visuals and a whimsical nature', and Paul's use of the imagery mixed with beautiful language caught our imaginations.
Paul Vicker’s book will be released this autumn and showcased on ShortbreadStories. So keep an eye out for Itchy Grumble.