Kingdom – HOME, Manchester

Bananas. The average person eats 102 of them per year. They are the cheapest fruit available in the supermarket, unless you use the self-serve machines to scan Pink Lady apples through as onions. Although in the 19th century nobody in the West had even seen a banana, let alone eaten one, they have now become a household staple.

In Kingdom, the global expansion of the banana trade is an example used to examine contemporary capitalism. Sounds bizarre? Add in a heavy dose of King Kong, a man in a banana suit, and half-naked macho men dancing, and you’re getting close.

Estamos Bien. Photo Credit – Vicenç Viaplana

Kingdom is easily the most surreal show I have ever seen. Produced by the Señor Serrano theatre company, it is part of HOME’s ¡Viva! festival, celebrating the arts of Spain and Latin America. This company is renowned for their unique story-telling, which combines live video streaming with music, dance, and scale models. Kingdom is no different. An extraordinary visual and aural spectacle, Kingdom is cinematic in scale, sounds like a live concert, and is immensely entertaining.

As you enter HOME’s theatre, the set looks unremarkable, mainly consisting of three long tables, adorned with random objects. In fact, they are intricate scale models. Technical wizardry transforms these tiny models into cinematic sets, using live video streaming to zoom into the objects, relaying the images onto the huge screen at the back of the stage.

Technical wizardry. Photo credit – Vicenç Viaplana

Likewise, through the use of palm trees and some spray, performers can appear as perspiring explorers, lost in a vast jungle, or even encountering King Kong on Skull Island. Displaying an astonishing awareness of perspective, each movement and camera shot is carefully considered to achieve a multimedia theatrical experience that is radically unconventional, yet utterly mind-blowing.

I am genuinely in awe at how insanely talented this company is, particularly as they use green-screen to interact with live project videos, namely King Kong and banana adverts. Live videos are added to newspapers and countless covers of Time Magazine to create a timeline of the banana trade and capitalism.

King of the Swingers. King Kong’s vocals. Photo credit – Vicenç Viaplana    

The thing I enjoyed most about Kingdom is that King Kong’s vocals are added live by a man in a banana costume. Impeccably timed, it actually takes a while to realise that it is him roaring and grunting, not Kong.

The only criticism I have of this brilliant show is the prolonged use of strobe lighting in the show’s finale. Although it suits the scenario, as topless macho men dance to rave music, it is simply too intense. I had to cover my eyes. I wasn’t alone. It is such a shame because the play is faultless up until this point.

Despite this, Kingdom is a technically magnificent production. It is completely bananas and makes little sense, but it never fails to entertain. It is a joy to watch these skilled artists at work. I could easily watch it over again!

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

My thoughts of Kingdom. On a banana! Image taken from HOME’s Twitter feed.

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