Incognito Theatre, the company behind fringe favourite All Quiet on the Western Front, return with a ferociously funny physical comedy based around the origins of the game of badminton, or should that be sport? With their usual fast paced style, The Net Kill has been in development for some time and is now playing at this year’s VAULT Festival.
Set towards the end of the nineteenth century, we meet a group of friends who enjoy a game of badminton, and are all set to play in an upcoming grand finale. The gormless group of five are approached by two strangers in bowler hats, claiming to represent Queen Victoria, who ask them to take on a mysterious beast who has gone on a killing spree in the forests of Gloucestershire.
With the promise of being paid enough money to save their beloved local pub, the hard-drinking group set off on a seemingly hopeless quest to hunt down and kill this strange menace. What qualifies the group for such a mission is never really made clear, but that pales into insignificance behind the rip-roaring adventure that follows.
It’s very much an ensemble piece, and the company put on a slick show that explains why they’ve had so much success to date. It’s very much a comedy, often irreverent and absurd, and it certainly keeps the audience entertained, but flying below the net is a more heartfelt story.
What The Net Kill does extraordinarily well is explore themes of male friendship and brotherhood, especially when faced with adversity. Angus Castle Doughty’s Robert displays some odd ticks, but when the group are forced to open up to each other, it all becomes clear. The same can be said for Percy (Charlie MacVicar), the underdog who isn’t good enough to play, but lends the required moral support that ensures team success.
The tightly choreographed physical theatre, set to an engaging score, is when The Net Kill, and Incognito Theatre, are at their best. It’s frenetic and fun, telling it’s own story within the main narrative, although these segments have a tendency to end too abruptly, taking away from the otherwise cohesive nature of the performance.
One of the group, Alfred, played with endearing bravado by Alex Maxwell practices the art of alchemy, brewing up a selection of potions that help the group out at various points, and it feels as though Incognito have their own alchemic skills; mixing together various schools of theatre to create something new and magical.
The Net Kill is a highly accomplished piece of theatre with polished performances all round, it’s a hugely enjoyable and very funny hour of theatre in which Incognito deliver yet another jump smash shot.
VAULT Festival 2023 runs Tuesday 24th January to Sunday 19th March, full listings and ticket information can be found here.