"Power greed corruption in space"
by Rachel Knightley for remotegoat on 13/08/15

A darkly atmospheric lighting sequence and disturbingly cheerful ship’s voiceover propel us into the future that is Steve Jordan’s King Chaos. This is the third installment of a sci-fi comedy trilogy. Impressively, you don’t need to have seen the first two to be immediately at home in Jordan’s confidently constructed world.

This episode follows renegades Tyler and Gary’s fight against ‘the Syndicate’, controllers of the galaxy. Gary Patches (Adam Joselyn) is a freedom fighter who enjoys being cool more than he understands what he’s fighting for. A marked contrast and enticing double act begins when he’s followed onstage by the cool, intense presence of Tyler Smith (Cliff Chapman). But this apparent captain’s authority crumbles as the old friends/rivals begin to argue. They know each other so well, and can take such liberties, they’re already dragging each other and the mission down. Meanwhile, their target, the apparently evil King Jeffrey (Robert Dearn), reveals to his civil servant Sponge (Emma Stirling) he really wants to be nice, if he only knew how...

The idea of absolute power corrupting absolutely, no matter what side you think you’re on, is neatly conveyed, the political points made clear but never upstaging the fun and spirit of the show. Ironically, it’s a similar over-intimacy that limits the impact of the production as the success of its heroes’ mission: they are too close to it. These are capable performers, delightful characters, and the character arc for Sponge provides a great structure and twist, but the playing space was left mostly unexplored, with sedentary dialogues, almost exclusively downstage, and no difference established by the actors between the different locations, from the king’s room to the dungeon. If the stagecraft were working harder to communicate the world of the play, this would have been as sparkling a production as it unquestionably is a script.

It seemed as if directorial attention might have been a little too strongly focused on the two leads. Sponge’s potentially compelling character arc, from her early “Think, sir?” to the eventual revelation that there was a great deal more to the civil servant who has to direct her kings to the bathroom (“second on the right, call me if you get lost”), is barely explored. Pace dropped entirely for King Jeffrey’s argument with Gary, with energy dropping through the gaps between the lines in what should have been a compelling, game-changing scene. The friendship between the lads was the focus of the production, missed the evolution of their nemesis, so drama and believability suffered.

This is wonderful, clever comedy but leaves the world insufficiently built to be wonderful theatre. All it really lacks is the outside eye to take the necessary steps from stand-up to fully-fledged theatre: full characters, who inhabit a physical and emotional world.

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