Edinburgh Fringe 2016
There’s trouble at the Mumbo Jumbo Hotel. Just what are Drunk Welsh Annie and the man from Frankie & Benny’s up to?
Twonkey (aka Paul Vickers) is well-known around the Fringe Festivals. His shows are rubbish nonsense – but in a marvellous way. From a similar school of surrealism as Paul Foot or Reeves & Mortimer in their Golden Age, you can expect an hour of ramshackle weirdness which is silly and pointless and is definitely not for everyone. If this is your thing, though (and it is mine), you have found a home here. A home made out of jumble sale refuse.
The show goes up late. Our performer had forgotten he started at 9pm and was out leafleting on the Grassmarket. The audience love this honesty. We enter a space looking like an infant school classroom constructed by Dadaists. A screen covered in cartoon illustrations of the characters we’ll meet. Rubbish home-made puppets. A ship’s wheel covered in netting and knickers. Dolls on a table. Much of it will be as without reason at the end of the show as it was before it began.
Almost immediately, Twonkey (in home-made ship’s captain’s jacket) breaks into song controlled from his iPod, which misbehaves throughout the show. He has a voice like Cat Stevens with a firework up his bottom singing to music by The Residents. Unfortunately, the music is so loud you can only make out about half of what he sings, which is a shame when this makes about a third of the show. His opening song is about the birth of Pinocchio. In many ways, this is as mainstream as it’s going to get.
We soon meet his regular assistant Chris Hutchinson. Chris is a puppet who has seen better days and this year he has new eyes. The deadpan surreality continues. Another set piece brings us the Ship’s Wheel of Psychic Knickers. Twonkey goes off into a long mind-reading session with two members of the audience. It is random nonsense and it is hilarious. I am screaming with laughter. The audience reactions make him laugh too.
We are shown around the Mumbo Jumbo Hotel, which has the face of a violent baby. We are taken inside and shown photographs of what’s going on in there. This is when we find the man from Frankie & Benny’s who is clearly up to no good and has his own plans about the future of the building. We feel sympathy for the eight-foot tall man who has to eat off the top of a wardrobe in the alleyway. There’s a dangerous cuckoo clock. We are treated to a seance by torchlight. The highlight of the show, for me, was the puppet duck – his beak full of slices of cake (the first one fell out, so he got a second one) whilst Twonkey is singing “Happy hippos”.
You will gather that plot is very thin on the ground. I don’t think it would work if there were more. There was a lady of quite mature years sitting close to me and she appeared to be enjoying it but having no idea why. The frightening thing is that Vickers sits at home building these props and making up these scripts.
To suggest any tweaks would be like telling a leopard to change his spots. For myself, I would like the songs to be shorter and the backing tracks quieter, but this has always been his way. When he is coming out with text, he is pants-wettingly funny. He isn’t a crazed madman, though. His stories (if you can stretch them to that term) are told with confidence.
As Charlie Chuck has taken a break from Edinburgh Fringe, you are unlikely to find anything else quite like Twonkey’s Mumbo Jumbo Hotel this year. If you go into that room knowing you are about to be totally confused with random craziness you will – as I did – have a great time.