In this 50th anniversary production of David Halliwell’s comedy Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against The Eunuchs at The Southwark Playhouse, Soggy Arts invite us to visit the confused world of Malcolm Scrawdyke once more, and it’s every bit as frenzied, vibrant and hilarious in the present day as it was some half a century ago.
Malcolm Scrawdyke (Daniel Easton) is a visionary art student who’s just been kicked out of art class by his supposedly vendetta driven art teacher. He’s also a self-deluded fraud, a cowardly conjurer of empty words and promises.
Malcolm Scrawdyke (Daniel Easton) is a visionary art student who’s just been kicked out of art class by his supposedly vendetta driven art teacher. He’s also a self-deluded fraud, a cowardly conjurer of empty words and promises. Set in Huddersfield – “the centre of everything” – we enter Scrawdyke’s miserable room of mouldy mattresses and freezing cold as he contemplates his next moves with his dim-witted cronies Wick Blagdon (Laurie Jameson), Irwin Ingham (Barney Mcelholm), Dennis Charles Nipple (Scott Arthur) and daydreams about the love of his life Ann Gedge (Rochenda Sandall). Together, out of sheer excitement of being part of something, they form the right wing Party of Dynamic Erection, plot to kidnap their teacher, and generally be noticed by, well, anybody.
In a time of protests, riots and extreme views found at the click of a mouse Halliwell’s script rings true even so many years on. And yet even though it has the sense of male frustration felt so keenly in earlier films such as Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, the bumbling, not-quite-all-there mentality of Scrawdyke’s companions-turned-extremists feels much closer now to comedy genius Chris Morris’ recent film Four Lions, another tale of four equally incompetent yet mildly dangerous radicals.
Just like in the Brass Eye comedian’s film there are a lot of very funny moments amongst the darker ones in Director Clive Judd’s production. Easton’s Scrawdyke brings an entire town to live inside his bleak four walls full of his own deranged thoughts and stories, and his eager friends lap up each bizarre fantasy more than the last. The characters are excellently cast by Matthew Dewsbury – Arthur’s lanky, geeky and belligerent Nipple (ahem) is a real highlight, but each of the party, particularly Easton and his tired and at times entirely maniacal Scrawdyke, builds a presence that are a joy to see tear and scream up the stage.
Whilst Little Malcolm has mercifully been cut from Halliwell’s original six hour running time to a more manageable three, there are still stretches when spending so long in Scrawdyke’s room feels restless, almost claustrophobic. Jemima Robinson’s set design is to the point in building on this atmosphere – the walls are scribbled with chalk figures and buildings of a fairy-tale city that seem to have all come from Malcolm’s frantic imagination. Yet even with occasional moments of unrest the play is an energetic romp full of daft, sly touches – dark yet ultimately very, very funny.