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27th October 2016

Review: Don’t Wake the Damp

Kill the Beast’s play allows the audience to explore the mind-set of four different types of characters through tropes, evacuations, and a mysterious monster masked as rising damp

The opening scene is the set of 80s TV show Crystal Continuum: a throwback with neon costumes, euphemisms, suggestive nicknames and all. With the assistance of overtly suggestive names and satirical resolutions to manage the explosion, the audience is made to think about the problems with representation and objectification whilst being amused by the humour and attire.

We then relocate to the living room of an elderly lady, who is unenthusiastically hosting the council planner Terry Brambles for a check-up. After listening to her letters—this is 2035, after all—that inform her of the impending evacuation of the block of flats, the inappropriately cheerful council planner and disgruntled lady burst into flashy, choreographed song to express their thoughts. Brambles’ cheerful demeanour in spite of the news he presents successfully illustrates the lack of connection between the council staff and residents of Vertigo Heights.

The focus then switches to two residents in the basement: the inexplicably arrogant Devlin and the hyperactive, bright young Lexxie. They are plotting their escape from the building and the damp, but they have soon joined Terry and the elderly lady, who is soon revealed to be Juniper Berry from Crystal Continuum much to Lexxie’s wonder and disbelief.

The two pairs join forces and push Terry for information until he cracks and bursts into an intense monologue about the pressures of being a part of the ‘army’ that is the council; after a dramatic attack the audience realises that the damp is in fact a mysterious creature that threatens the stability of the whole building. Through the teamwork that ensues, Kill the Beast invites the audience to explore four types of character. Lexxie is optimistic and enthusiastic, if overeager, and provides the technological know-how behind the operation. Juniper’s smart, pragmatic character is given depth by the revelation that she is not mourning her late co-star Max, as the ‘dependent glamourous assistant’ trope would suggest, but is in fact still enraged by the fact that Max neither deserved nor wanted the lead role, and allowed her to be fired after the implementation of her idea, masked as his own. Devlin, a self-centred and sexist character, represents the alpha male that was revered by so many in 80s pop culture. Terry Brambles embodies the impersonal approach that authorities take when dealing with sensitive issues: he offers leather pens and burritos in lieu of a home and struggles to stray from the explanation he has been told to spread amongst the residents.

In one smooth and creatively ingenious moment, the flashbacks of Juniper Berry in Crystal Continuum and her in the present day coalesce to demonstrate the continued prevalence of the frustrations and misogyny that she faced years ago. Whilst revealing the fate of the late Max, the audience watches on as Juniper tries to deal with Devlin in the exact same way.

As the play draws to an end, Terry Brambles is joined by his colleagues as they wonder whether “by diligently following the rules [they] could be doing more harm than good,” and Lexxie moves on from the revelation of her idol’s true colours. Don’t Wake the Damp is a daring, satirical piece of art that takes our thoughts and shows them to us with the accompaniment of a block of flats, neon costumes, and plenty of questionable tropes.

Don’t Wake The Damp is showing at The Lowry until the 29th of October.

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