Reviewing Mr. Twonkey at the Fringe has become a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Every year, I’m excited to go see his new show and then, during the performance, I find myself thinking, “How the hell am I going to review this in a way that makes sense?” This year is no exception.
Twonky is painfully endearing onstage.
For the uninitiated, Mr Twonky is the creation of vocalist for cult rock band Dawn of the Replicants and winner of the acclaimed Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality, Paul Vickers. His performance style is part lovely storytelling uncle and part drunken man standing in the street trying to have a friendly argument with himself. Twonky is painfully endearing onstage and the audience are absolutely along for the ride on his Night Train to Liechtenstein. It's going to be a hell of a ride as I'm sure this train doesn't need to follow the tracks, is fuelled by fever-dreams, and it might actually be a submarine.
In this show, Twonky’s constantly malevolent agent Mr Pines has yet another plan to rid himself of his hated client. He’s going to do this by shipping a semtex fez to Twonky and then take his place and claim a recent inheritance. However, the plot is completely secondary to the meandering narrative thread (which is literally in a pile on the edge of the stage) which takes in thoughts on REM’s Michael Stipe, a tiny Al Capone, Twonky’s failed marriage, and songs that shouldn’t have too many specifics.
All of the puppets that have become staples of Vicker’s performances are here and some call-back gags reward the long-time fans. The songs are wonderfully weird and there’s plenty of barmy asides throughout. This presentation is less prop heavy than previous shows but the various handmade and customised items throughout are, as always, a delight. “Doesn’t matter if everything breaks; that’s how the show works”, Vickers says as yet another prop goes a bit wrong and he’s right. The show works and it definitely broke me.