Thursday, 28 September 2017

As I listen to a song asking the intriguing question “What’s In My Marmalade?” while watching two Spandex Tree Hoppers being dangled by the Flying Tailor over our heads, I have a moment of clarity.
We have made it out of the hallucinogenic jungle, met Sue Selfish the Christmas Pudding Spider, swayed along to the catchy title song Christmas in the Jungle, aquiesced in the chloroforming of an elf and enjoyed a Transylvanian Finger Fantasy – which doesn’t even touch the sides of this crazy, wonderful show, by a crazy, wonderful performer – and I realise that the show is actually a concept album.
This fumble in the jungle is particularly strong musically and if the opening number, Santa Claus Is Eating Human Flesh, does not become a Christmas No.1, I will be very upset. Twonkey has listened to criticisms of his lack of narrative thread. So this time he has brought one along. It wraps around him and a woman in the front row yanks the end if she thinks he is digressing from the plot too much.
Fans will be thrilled that all the favourites have made it into the jungle, even the wheel of psychic knickers, but Twonkey’s febrile imagination is unstoppable and this show is packed with magnificent new madness. Who but Twonkey could imagine making “a soft monkey Nicola Sturgeon and fill her with almonds”? And among the surreality, never forget to listen out for Twonkey’s little chunks of observational comedy, his glorious asides and mutterings as things go wrong and this year, a bit of genuinely naughty talk. However well you think your Fringe is going, it will be better for a bit of Twonking.
Twonkey is lost in the jungle. His agent, Mr Pines, has sent him to the Iquitos Fringe deep in the Peruvian Jungle but, unfortunately for Twonkey and his ever-present sidekick, Chris, there isn’t actually an Iquitos Fringe.
Twonkey doesn’t need to conform to our preconceptions of theatre Now I’m going to open this review with a caveat; this show may seem like it makes little sense but that’s because Twonkey’s Christmas in the Jungle is by far the barmiest, most original show on the Fringe. If you like your comedy surreal, Twonkey might still be a bit too weird for you. There’s old classics like the Psychic Ship’s Wheel of Knickers, used to divine audience members’ sexual history, there’s a song about Santa Claus eating human flesh and there’s even a literal narrative thread (more on that later).
Paul Vickers, the man behind Twonkey, has a keen comedy mind and a flair for the absurd. He dodders about on stage giving the impression that he’s making this up as he goes along but, having seen his previous work, it’s clear that everything is fitting to a plan. The plan might be written in green crayon on the side of teapot but Vickers, at least, knows what he’s doing. As with any Twonkey show, the regular appearances by varied puppets is a highlight; most are a mix of cute and terrifying, and each has a backstory and, often, a song. A perfect moment occurs when Twonkey introduces Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf who bemoan the lack of any real structure in the show and how the critics will never understand what he’s trying to achieve. Way to hang a lamp on it, Twonkey.
As for the narrative thread, it is a regular criticism of Vicker’s work that his shows lack this; so, this show has one. It’s tied around his waist and, by the end of the show, it almost strangles him. Twonkey doesn’t need to conform to our preconceptions of theatre, he’s created his own world and he’d love for us all to join him there.
The Malcolm Hardee award is bestowed to those who particularly cater to those who have a penchant for the bizarre and last years winner Mr Twonkey, Paul Vickers, is fully intent on maintaining extreme battiness. If I wasn’t feeling confused at the beginning of the show, I was firmly discombobulated by the end of it.
August is too early for anything Xmas related, but its merely title alone. Twonkey has been sent by his manager Mr Pines to the Iquitos Fringe deep in the hallucinogenic Peruvian jungle over Christmas’. The manager, also played by Vickers only with a fake nose and wig, is another bizarre character that sets the scene at the beginning of the show and things just get stranger from there. Over the course of the next hour we are treated to an hour of utter chaos, grotesque characters, surreal situations and with songs aplenty, soon to be classics like ‘Santa’s Eating Human Flesh’ and ‘Chicken Church’ witch stay with you long after.
If you have an hour to and want something different then spending an hour in the mind of Vickers is probably a good choice, but this show is weird, I mean really, really weird. You need to enter with an open mind and just accept the meandering journey through madness without question, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
If you like the feeling of tripping off your t**s but are too tight-fisted to actually buy any drugs then this is the show for you. Paul Vickers (a.k.a. Mr Twonkey) gives us a bizarre, meandering, Wonderland-esque blend of pure madness which will make you feel like you just dropped a shedload of topnotch ‘shrooms and washed them down with a pint of moonshine. His show consists of a (very, very, VERY loose) narrative about the quest of Mr Twonkey, who is looking for the Chicken Church deep in the heart of the jungle. Yes, you heard me. To visualise Mr T think of The Little Prince all grown up and living under a bridge in The Magic Roundabout…and I get the strong feeling Paul Vickers genuinely believes himself to be Mr Twonkey.
The ‘story’ is interspersed with voiceovers, barmy tunes, some well orchestrated interaction with the audience (unlike some comedians, nothing too personal or vicious- he keeps it feelgood throughout) and a collection of puppets which appear to have been made by a gang of disturbed 5 year olds. The entire premise should mimic Twonkey’s props and fall apart after 5 minutes yet somehow this show bumbles along nicely and exudes a strange charm and humanity, consistently eliciting baffled laughter throughout and feelings of warmth and pity for Mr T…there is something just so disshevelled and likeable about him, he looks like someone who once had a career as a professional hobo but has managed to climb maybe halfway up one rung on the social ladder…you just desperately want him to do well, find his Chicken Church and complete his mission (whatever the hell that may be- we are still wondering).
The winner of last year's Malcolm Hardee Award has lost none of his surreal spark. Mr Twonkey (Paul Vickers) guides us through the jungle full of adventure, song and puppetry. This show includes a ship's wheel decorated with knickers, a flying tailor and a literal narrative thread.
British Comedy Guide
“Now I’ll attempt my special dance, during which I may or may not throttle myself.” Such is onstage life for Mr Twonkey, aka Paul Vickers, now something of a Fringe stalwart having graced Edinburgh with his fantasy islands and freakish DIY puppets since 2010. Thankfully those years of toil haven’t led to the Twonkey brand becoming offputtingly polished, as yet.
Then again, it’s hard to know exactly how much of this heroic mayhem is actually planned. One splendid concept early on: due to this year’s labyrinthine plot Mr Twonkey offers the audience an actual narrative thread, a big red rope we can pull on if we get too confused. Unfortunately, while thrusting it forth (to yours truly) it gets caught up in his mic lead and trapped around his neck, so he gives up and carries on, dragging this twin tether around like some archaic prisoner harness.
It adds a hint of jeopardy to that dance, and as Twonkey wades into the audience to stroke someone with the lollypop of a Christmas pudding spider or make us sniff cheese garnished with a whiff of Taylor Swift, there’s as much hilarity about the rope-based carnage being wrought behind him. By crikey, it’s funny though.
Lunatic Fringe: Clash Heads To Edinburgh
One of the more unlikely transformations in recent years is that by Paul Vickers, formerly the main man with John Peel favourites Dawn of the Replicants. Since 2010 he’s been performing at the Fringe as Mr Twonkey, a prop-based loon who wanders through surreal worlds while also indulging in a fair bit of singing; plus there’s a rolling soundtrack of background effects burbling away that suggest that this is an eccentric who knows exactly what he’s doing. Well, maybe. On the evening that Clash saw this year’s effort – Mr Twonkey’s Christmas in the Jungle – he got a big red rope and the mic lead caught round his neck and caused absolute bedlam. Peel would have loved it.
Best of all we won The Not Television Edinburgh Awards 2017 Best use of a ship’s wheel of knickers:
For the sixth year running, it’s Twonkey’s Christmas in the Jungle, now with added cannibal Santa, bestselling recipe book Cooking with Pills and a sturdy red nylon narrative thread. Twonkey’s on-stage agent assures him “nobody wants that shit anymore. It’s too imaginative, too weird.” Nonsense. Keep it coming. P.S The Twonkey show's Mothra also won the Battle of the Superheroes but more about Mothra later.

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