Russell Kane: ‘Fakespeare: The Tragicall Saveings of King Nigel’ (4 stars)

This article is from 2009

Russell Kane: ‘Fakespeare: The Tragicall Saveings of King Nigel’

More bard theory than he's letting on?

Russell Kane’s second ‘Fakespeare’ play tells the story of Nigel, a vile Essex banker torn between his fat orange wife – ‘the Gorgon’ – and his ‘semi-chav’ secretary, Donna. Nigel also has to choose between suicide and the nefarious investment in Sudan which will spare him from a lifetime’s shopping in the wrong class of supermarket. And it’s all told in unrhymed iambic pentameter.

I strongly suspect that the charming smash-hit stand-up is getting into his theatre. But he doesn’t want you to know that.

Kane insists there’s nothing to be afraid of. The show’s not clever and there aren’t any scholarly undertones. There’s swearing and bawdy and loads of silly pop culture references. Nothing that could be mistaken for serious thought. It’s all about the language and the laughs.

It is, up to a point, and it is funny. There are some strong one-liners: “No man should cry and wank together. ’Tis a merger that will always fail.”

Later, Nigel complains that his sexless marriage has “less soul than a racist’s ipod”.

Kane’s engagement with Shakespeare’s style isn’t all that deep, but his facility with the extended metaphor is impressive, and smart enough to bamboozle in places, as well as tickle.

The audience chuckled gamely at each of his bathetic similes, but these felt increasingly formulaic as the names of minor celebrities were called upon one after another. Kane certainly has the wit to do better, and when his characters themselves pause to reflect upon the quality of their similes, it gets you wondering what Kane is up to.

In a play where modern urban idiom is chopped up and crammed into blank verse, the characters find that the word “like” – with which our generation has played fast and loose like none since Shaggy from Scooby- Doo – is finally asked to perform its conventional function. Their imaginations can manage little from beyond the gossipy bubble of the British consumer. As Kane warns at the start: “Thine own judgements have been supplied, thine own thoughts, Daily Mailéd.”

It’s refreshing to see a successful comic trying out something different at the Fringe, as opposed to making the same jokes we heard last week on the telly in exchange for piles of cash.
This is an original and witty piece by a good writer. Kane has enough talent that he shouldn’t worry about being taken for a dramatist, albeit a funny one.

Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 Aug, 2.10pm, £8.50-9.50 (£7-8).

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Last year: a sell-out Pleasance run, then the RSC's main stage, Stratford. Kane presentsanother blank verse play: Nigellio is an Essex banker, thus utterly finishéd.'Surpasses himself!' (Sunday Times).