Monday, June 30, 2008

THE IK - The worst show on Earth

In the early 1970’s I was taken by a girlfriend to a night of entertainment at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm.

The memory plays strange tricks and I hope that this somewhat belated review will be accurate after about thirty five years. The evening was remarkable and it sticks in the mind as the worst theatrical event I have seen (so far!)

I have tried to Google the show but unsurprisingly after all this time I can find very little about this theatrical event. The play was written by Colin Higgins and Denis Cannan, adapted from the book "The Mountain People" by Colin Turnbull. However, according to Richard Ginker it was this book which “tainted Turnbull's reputation as a respected anthropologist.”

In those days the Roundhouse was extremely Spartan. It is common knowledge that the Roundhouse had been a railway turntable where locomotives were turned round and sent back where they came from. Nothing much had changed except for a trestle table bar and some rows of uncomfortable seats which looked like they had been nicked from a failing church hall. I recall no heating.

So we took our bar of Bournville and sat uncomfortably. The simple programme explained that we were to see a theatrical piece reliving the demise of an African tribe of pigmies called The Ik. Advertisers such as the printers and the local taxi service wished the company a successful season. Then the house lights dimmed.

Four particularly tall and pale white people shuffled on to the stage and explained to one another that matters were dire – there was a drought and the tribe had no food and that they were all dying. They did not look like a convincing black African pigmy tribe but “heck this is acting.”

One by one the four people died in agony – a slow tormented death.

Each time one of the actors died the spotlight would be removed – but they could be seen creeping round the sparse scenery only to come back as another tribe member. On their return they would curse their lot and die all over again. From memory this went on for about two hours. With an interval for refreshments and more Bournville.

Politeness and the glamour of being out with a girlfriend encouraged me to stay until the very last death of the Ik tribe. I was unable to join in the traditional back slapping and bonhomie that goes along with the pretence of enjoyment.,,2-11-37_1765177,00.html

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