Dan Whitehead of Honky Bonk Theatre brings a hilarious solo performance to The Warren. Honky Bonk’s reputation rests on a threesome delivering manic and macabre theatre. In this production, the protaganist, Fred Strangebone takes a job in a Freakshow and invites his audience to “peel back the flapping tent canvas door and behold the freaks within”.
This was character driven comedy at it’s best, with only a loose narrative with which to hold his audience
Stepping out onto a stage alone can be terrifying and Fred Strangebone used this device to great effect as he crept out, alone from the side of the stage, distorting his face and body to reflect the terrors of his situation and capturing the full sympathy of his audience. We were on his side from the outset. His narrative began when he took a job with the local freakshow and he invited us to meet the characters he encountered there one by one. These were ridiculous, sinister, freakish and broadly comedic by turns and executed with Chaplinesque skill and timing.
The costumes were unsophisticated and childlike which added to his unhinging as he thrashed around the stage in his stuck-on walrus teeth or bad wig and slightly desperate facial expressions, as if he expected to be caught out and booed off for the sheer audacity of his performance asking an audience to believe in him and his outlandish stories and personas. He was particularly applauded for his depiction of a property developer, bringing in local references which were instantly recogniseable, and cheered. The sinister “white mist” sketch was chilling but not enough to dampen the warmth of surrounding comedy.
There were plenty of laughs from the audience who were in the mood for a good time. There were occasional lapses into silence as some of the more grotesque characters took to the stage and told a grisly tale; but with consummate ease, Fred whisked us away to another bout of silliness and made everything OK again.
This was character driven comedy at it’s best, with only a loose narrative with which to hold his audience. A well crafted mix of horror, humour and clowning delivered at breakneck speed and worth an hour of anybody’s time, particularly for anyone who likes to be taken out of their own head for a while and into someone else’s… even if it is distinctly weird.