Colin Hoult: Characthorse | Review by Steve Bennett
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Colin Hoult: Characthorse

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

Characthorse could have been written by a seven-year-old.

That’s not a criticism, but a major contributory factor to the innocent, off-kilter charm of Colin Hoult’s excellent adventure.

That’s the age he claims he was when he dreamt up this story; its title coming from him mishearing his mum’s advice, delivered in a broad East Midlands accent, that a good tale needs good characters.

The suggestion is that he created this fantasy epic while alone in his bedroom trying to escape the mundanity of suburban existence. The semi-mystical setting of Snottingham and its inhabitants and stories are influenced by events in the real world, many of which he’s misunderstood.

Once through the wormhole into his fictional Oz-like world, the tale encompasses lap-dancing Transformers, the ever-present threat of the terrifying space duck, and aggressive ostrich hordes, as well as the titular Characthorse. Especially chilling is the calm-voiced villain Warlock Bill, who makes masks with transformative powers, conjuring up the cackling Pen-gu-in who would give nightmares to the impressionable. Our bold hero must save the day, in an action-packed hour incorporating thrilling chases through the streets – and the aid of some in the audience.

It’s told with the intimacy of a campfire story, but told by a narrator who’s wolfed down a few too many ’shrooms. Nonetheless we are totally absorbed in the madness, whether in the story or the story about the story. Hoult is a convincing guide through a world where The League Of Gentlemen meets The Mighty Boosh.

The hour is a hotbed of invention: a preposterous version of Sir Patrick ‘cover your bellies’ Stewart introduces the action, which includes joyful audience interaction, an inner critic called Richard Dawkins who lives in Hoult’s stomach, guest appearances from Ringo Starr and a line-dance set to the Star Wars Ewok song. It’s odd, but it’s fun, brought to life by Hoult’s versatile, frisky character work.

At one point, everyone in the audience becomes a reviewer: joyless, Fagin-like hunched figures rubbing hands in a miserly manner, sneering: ‘I don’t get it; it’s not like other things I’ve seen.’ The second part of that sentiment is certainly true, but the creativity and strange imagination heaped into the hour make it an rare and random pleasure. Strap in and enjoy the madcap ride...

Review date: 17 Aug 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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