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Crumbleflan: LIVE! at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre

According to the Crumbleflan YouTube channel, there are twenty-two episodes of this comedy podcast, all recorded and released between May 2020 and July 2021. But you need not have listened to any of them (let alone all of them) to follow proceedings in this live version of the show. Set in the Middle Ages (I think – you wouldn’t have known it from the cast’s plain black clothes), the show seeks to provide the audience with details of what happened when a mysterious virus (cough, cough) starts spreading through a medieval kingdom.

Crumbleflan: LIVE!Some things, it would appear, haven’t changed over the centuries, though it hardly takes a genius to work out that what’s really happened here is the political tomfoolery that occurred during That Pandemic (you know the one) is used as source material for a comedy series. Occasionally, the sense of humour borders on controversial – it’s all very well sticking in a most unsubtle reference to the so-called Partygate scandal, but my own thoughts very quickly turned to those who faced, for instance, caps on numbers of mourners who could attend a funeral, even if the punchlines themselves were, rightly, sendups of the political elite rather than making light of anyone in the general population.

Parts of this show are highly triggering – when Crabtight the Cunning (William Ross-Fawcett, understudying for David Boyle) is brought before Their Majesties King Vivian The Vague (Callum Hale) and Queen Ermintrude The Organised (Philippa James) to answer charges of breaching the very same public health restrictions that he devised, it transpires he went cross-country on account of a sick relative. The parallels between recent events and what goes on in this medieval kingdom kept coming – I wondered if there was going to be some reference or other to the Northern Ireland Protocol. (Perhaps there was, and I missed it.)

There’s a running commentary of sorts on the political establishment: when it is revealed certain people haven’t been paying their taxes, because they haven’t been working, because they died of the plague, the question is asked whether dying is being used as an excuse to get out of work. This is as absurd as it sounds, and the audience got a good laugh out of it, whilst also knowing assessors at the Department for Work and Pensions have indeed declared dead people ‘fit for work’. On paper, the show’s narrative is a form of escapism, but it revels in letting the audience make connections between Crumbleflan and the real world for themselves. It’s difficult not to ‘get’ it.

This being, in effect, a radio play, the script does the bulk of the work, assisted by some sound effects, though not as many as some radio shows use. Everything moves very slickly between scenes, and the action keeps flowing at a steady but assured pace. Roger Parkins as Sid the Serf displays some actor-musicianship in the form of a guitar, even if he seems to play the same melody at various intervals. Given the themes and topics this show covers, it’s remarkably playful and upbeat. The humour may not necessarily be for everyone, as some of it can some across as goofy and puerile, but it needs to be remembered that there are actual and documented parallels to almost everything that goes on. That we can have a laugh about it all is, on reflection, quite impressive.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Set in an ancient and crumbling castle, King Vivian (the Vague), Queen Ermintrude (the Organized) and Lord Crabtight (the Cunning) try to hold their once glorious Kingdom of ‘Crumbleflan’ together, as a new and unheard of plague visits their chaotic, crumbling, quasi-Camelot! …but as the people begin to suspect the whole handling of the crisis is in tatters, the monarchy resolves that – rather than solve the crisis themselves – they could simply rely on a dung-sweeping peasant to sort it for them!

Drawing cheeky parallels with real-world events, all the while fully enjoying the medieval quippery of its madcap characters, Crumbleflan: LIVE! unites the complete original cast – including comedy legend David Boyle as Crabtight the Cunning – in a 100mph, hour-long dragon-ride through the first series of Micawber’s popular lockdown comedy, Crumbleflan!

WRITTEN BY: Callum Hale
DIRECTED BY: Dylan Allcock
OTHER CREATIVES: David Boyle, Philippa James, Jacqueline Johnson, Roger Parkins, Lewis Allcock

RUNNING TIME: 60 Mins (No Interval)
Twitter: @Crumbleflan

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