Nougat For Kings

Thu 31st July – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Lucy Diver

at 09:47 on 7th Aug 2014

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I have never seen such an amazing live version of the 20th Century Fox movie opening clip in my entire life, and I doubt anything will top it. Nougat for Kings promised ‘period drama as you’ve never seen it before’, and they made good on this: I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Some of the references I spotted included: the ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ video, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, P Diddy, Shakespeare, Tarantino and more. The show was a unique combination of rap, historical fiction, good puns, bad puns, puns-that-are-so-bad-they’re good, dance, song, corruption in the law courts, and coffee.

I’m not sure how to explain this show. I was very confused, but I was also laughing a lot. I couldn’t tell you exactly what the plot was, but I didn’t really care. I was swept away by these swashbuckling coffee merchants and intrigues: the sale of Peruvian black coffee (‘Once you go black….you will never return.’), arranged marriages, a judge writing erotic literature, and an inheritance up for grabs.

This inheritance is up-for-grabs by a pair of brothers-who-hate-each-other, Theophilius and Caecilius, excellently played by Freddy Sawyer and Greg Obi. The love interest of them both is Momma Madeleine, a kind of Beyonce in a bodice who speaks in a southern accent when she’s nervous. Her daughter, played by Tania Clarke, is an amusingly stroppy aristocrat. She speaks in a northern accent when she’s nervous, but ‘It can’t be genetic, genes haven’t been invented yet.’ The Peruvian peasant duo of Gabriel Cagan and Nisha Emich were also a hilarious highlight.

Did I mention there’s dance? Oh yes. There’s an absolutely fantastic fiesta scene with Cagan and Emich: think Wolf of Wall Street meets 1814 opium den for sailors. The physical aspects of this show are as rambunctious and hilarious as the verbal wit and wordplay. (If Obi’s Caecilius doesn’t speak ENTIRELY in rhyme, it’s at least 98.6%) The numerous fight scenes are wild and well-choreographed, and set changes mostly occur in a hilarious scramble.

Music was well-used, and I particularly loved the appearance of Shakira, but I won’t spoil it. Costumes were also very much up to scratch which helped ground the explosive farce in its time period. My only tiny complaint is that it was difficult to see some of the scenes on the floor, even from the third of four rows.

I urge you to grab a cup of coffee, and head to Nougat for Kings. It’s wild, it’s hilarious, it has seamen/semen jokes, it has a cracking swordfight or two, and it’s very, very self-aware. I like self-awareness in all things: in men, in coffee, and in theatre.

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Alex Green

at 11:30 on 7th Aug 2014

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Nougat for Kings is a farcical epic that documents a 17th century coffee heist and a whole heap of sly deeds that follow in its wake. After taking the rap for the heist and fleeing to the Deep South, USA, Caecillius Clay returns 16 years later with a newly acquired Southern accent to secure his inheritance from his cunning brother, righting some past wrongs along the way. The cast call it a Blaxploitation epic. The most ambitious play I have seen so far at The Fringe, Nougat for Kings is a farce reimagined that hops between film pastiche and dramatic set piece.

The plot moves at a pace only a cast as young as this would be able to sustain. The energy is visible, as is the enthusiasm for the strange and wonderful parts the actor’s play: an old pirate, an austere judge and a deliciously camp poison maker. Stand out performances come from Freddie Sawyer as deceitful brother Theophilius, Greg Obi as the lead and Ammar Abdu’allah-Duffus as the said master of poisons. Sometimes, though, the amount of action on stage takes away from the plot and it is hard to keep up.

The climactic duel that closes the play and a scene in which partygoers take part in a strange, sexual dance displays the appeal of good, physical theatre. Engaging from the off, the plays charm lies in it’s ability to mix the old with the new and the straightforward with the downright surreal.

Foul language you wouldn’t expect of the seventeenth century spices up the production’s old English, giving the play a fresh, contemporary feel. This happens most noticeably when pirate protagonist Calico Jack abandons his accent briefly to swear at the crowd, or when the actors share knowing looks with the audience during the many sexual references. Whilst the level of innuendo here could easily border on the graphic, it remained playful and light-hearted.

Obi, who plays Caecillius Clay, calls the play ‘ludicrous’ as only a farce could be. But it is the strength of that characterisation that makes the performance work. As to how the run has been so far, he says ‘we’ve had applause for bits that we didn’t intend to be funny – the play invites the audience to have a laugh.’ That’s the lure of Nougat for Kings, production company ‘Unleash the Llama’ are funny in such an assortment of ways that keeping at least one person laughing at all times is no problem at all.

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