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  • Writer's pictureIzzy Siebert

Prehistoric Satire and Shenanigans Star in New Comedy "Civil Dawn"

Move over Flintstones and Croods! Set in the Paleolithic Age, Civil Dawn is a creative new comedy from local playwright and director, Patrick Brennan. Banished by the King has been producing original London theatre since 2009, and their inaugural show as the Palace Theatre’s new Company in Residence is an entertaining romp. Read our review and grab your tickets before the show closes on April 27!

In a time before recorded history, humans live alone. Everyone barely scrapes by until a new idea arises: working as a group might make life easier! This seemingly perfect proposal leads to plenty of problems. Civil Dawn invites audiences to laugh at the characters and ourselves as we see modern issues cleverly framed in a prehistoric setting.

A cast of eight people post in caveman costumes on the set of the play.
The village residents are Amul, Altadena, Copha, Smjor, Lurpak, Plugra, Tillamook, and Oselka. Photo: Ross Davidson.

This production stars a vibrant cast of eight, but don’t let the lineup of Paleolithic names confuse you! Each character stands out thanks to their delightfully unique performances. Smjor (Andrew Dodd) is the village founder, firekeeper, lawgiver… and owner of many other self-appointed titles throughout the play. Smjor begins to enjoy power and control a little too much until everyone is soon watching the rise of a tyrant!

Oselka (Nicole McTeer) is tasked with recording the village’s history through slate carvings. She tries to act as the voice of reason, going head-to-head with Smjor as things escalate. Meanwhile, Lurpak (Dylan Rock) invents a religion on the spot and has to commit to it as the village’s spiritual leader. Soon enough, both Lurpak and the audience lose track of who genuinely believes in the Old Ones and who is twisting the new religion for their own ends.

Amul (Patrick Hoffer) and Lurpak (Dylan Rock) intimidate Smjor (Andrew Dodd). Photo: Ross Davidson.

As for the other village members, you can find Plugra (Sue Harrington) dealing herbs, trying shrooms, and licking frogs. Copha (Jessica Pereira) is the resident ‘vestment’ maker whose skills are co-opted for a sinister plan. In the classic roles of hunter and gatherer, you can find the mighty Amul (Patrick Hoffer) and the enthusiastic Altadena (Rachel Sherret). Last but not least, there’s Tillamook (Ryan Starkweather), who has spent all of recorded history digging the same latrine. 

Oselka (Nicole McTeer) records events like the escapades of Plugra (Sue Harrington). Photo: Ross Davidson.

Although cooperation among such colourful characters is never easy, the village makes life better in many ways. However, not everything is nuts and berries. Disagreements stack up, rights are taken away, and a corrupt justice system might spell doom for the villagers. Things only escalate with the discovery of another village across the river.

Procunier Hall is quickly becoming one of my favourite places to experience theatre in London. The small performance space lets everyone get close to the action. For Civil Dawn, it added an extra layer of hilarity to watch the expressive cast react to every new development. Tongue-in-cheek moments that broke the fourth wall were deliciously self-aware and incredibly fun.

Amul (Patrick Hoffer) and Altadena (Rachel Sherret) argue while Copha (Jessica Pereira) looks on. Photo: Ross Davidson.

The creative team behind the play was committed to the theme. The set lent itself to dynamic staging, the costumes had plenty of fun details, and the sound design immersed watchers in the world of the village. At intermission, we were invited to join in on the fun with themed cake pops available for purchase. Banished by the King is donating proceeds to Atlohsa Family Healing Services and Ark Aid.

For all that it draws on ancient history, Civil Dawn is a refreshing comedy not to be missed! Laugh at the absurdity of the civilizations we have created and recognize our modern problems played hilariously, sympathetically, and with devastating familiarity. Civil Dawn runs in Procunier Hall at the Palace Theatre until April 27. Get your tickets now!

Popilicious Cakepop's custom creations were the perfect addition to the night!

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