Kingdom

Àlex Serrano, Pau Palacios and Ferran Dordal
Señor Serrano
HOME, Manchester (¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Festival 2019)
to

Kingdom, devised by Àlex Serrano, Pau Palacios and Ferran Dordal, plays fast and loose with history mixing fact with fiction to satirise capitalism. Arguing that the possible location of the Garden of Eden made it likely the forbidden fruit was a banana rather than an apple, the play proceeds to use the former fruit as a symbol of capitalism.

The play shows the pros and cons of capitalism as the need to satisfy consumer demand for bananas results in innovations in refrigeration and storage but also brutal treatment of the workforce. When worldwide banana blight compels a search for new crops, explorers end up on Skull Island. Encountering King Kong—the ultimate in virility—they realise rather than finding satisfaction in encouraging consumption they should instead pursue conquest—using Kong as their model.

Entering HOME, the initial surprise is not that the stage looks like a car boot sale but that the cast (Diego Anido, Pablo Rosal, Wang Ping-Hsiang, David Muñiz and Nico Roig) are standing around smoking. It sets the scene for a play that does not take itself too seriously. A series of tables full of miscellaneous debris, including a mixing deck and film camera, are arranged at the front of the stage with a massive screen and a drum kit to the rear. The cast have technical responsibilities in addition to performing—Roig wrote the hard rock score and Muñiz programmed the videos.

With Kingdom, the manner in which things are said is more significant than the content of the speeches—a triumph of style over substance. The style is cheeky; tricks of the trade are performed in plain sight so the audience can see that the exploits of the explorers on screen are created by the cast being filmed standing in front of posters of a jungle. Filming the debris on the table in extreme close-up gives an exaggerated impression of scale, making toy ships appear full-sized. The authors throw a bewildering range of techniques into the play. Throughout, Wang Ping-Hsiang screams (you couldn’t really call it singing) agonised lyrics.

The pace of the play is very relaxed as the cast amble around the stage putting scenes together in an apparently careless, ramshackle manner. Kingdom is not subtle and repetition hammers home the points the authors wish to make. The cast seem reluctant to end the show and constantly extend the final scene.

Yet, despise the repetition, the welcome sense of irreverence running through Kingdom keeps the play lively and avoids it becoming too worthy or ponderous.

David Cunningham