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A CurtainUp London London Review
Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs

Irwin: "There's only three of us. "
Malcolm: "Hitler started with seven."
Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs
Laurie Jamieson as Wick, Daniel Easton as Malcolm, Scott Arthur as Nipple and to the rear Barney McElholme as Irwin (Photo: Thomas Scurr)
David Halliwell's play has been kicking around since 1965. The late George Harrison funded a film of it in 1975 which ran for one hour 49minutes. The original production starred the playwright as his eponymous central figure Malcolm at the Union Theatre in 1965 directed by Mike Leigh. It ran at a derriere numbing six hours. While Southwark Playhouse's production is a little under half of that, two hours 50 on the playhouse seats is a challenge.

The set is beautiful. Blackboard type walls have been painted in white with a Northern street scene like a monochrome version of one of LS Lowry's paintings. The details are there, the smoke from the tall factory chimneys and the people scurrying around the narrow streets. Unfortunately, the play is a much uglier prospect using comedy to drum home its anti right wing message . Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs is set in Huddersfield, Yorkshire where Malcolm has been expelled from the local art school or technical college.

Malcolm Scrawdyke (Daniel Easton) opens the play with his monologue about his expulsion from college, "an outrage against the cultural aspirations of mankind." Intense and self important, he invents a neo-fascist political party, the Party of Dynamic Erection, a party celebrating male sexual dominance. The party's banner has an erect phallus as its symbol.

Malcolm has three followers, Irwin (Barney McElholm), Wick (Laurie Jamieson) and the more reluctant revolutionary, the Trotsky of the group, Dennis Charles Nipple (Scott Arthur). Much of this play is satirical humour directed to ridicule the rhetoric of political leaders. Scrawdyke starts to rename the months after himself and others in the style of the French Revolutionary renaming of the calendar.

Daniel Easton's Scrawdyke has no charisma, no attraction, just very long speeches with most of the humour coming from other parts in the play. It would all be very funny were it not that the play mirrors all that is necessary for fascism to get a hold. Terror, strong leadership and a ruthless extermination of your enemies is illustrated here.

Despite the London heat wave, this play is set in a largely unheated flat in the middle of a Northern winter. Little Malcolm is swaddled in an army great coat, Napoleon style.

Dennis Nipple is different from the others. As the English student he gives a lyrical account of his sexual encounter with a sultry beauty. Malcolm undermines Nipple's sexual fantasy by describing the inadequacies of the real girl. Dennis is put through a show trial where he is asked if he pleads Guilty or Very Guilty?

They plan the kidnapping of the principal of the college and devise an act of sabotage with Wick taking the part of the principal. This cackhanded group of wannabe revolutionaries are not academia's finest.

Having tied their party to sexual prowess and male dominance, Malcolm, Irwin and Wick call the enemy eunuchs but the arrival of a woman, a fellow student Ann (Rochenda Sandall) exposes Malcolm's impotence and a shocking scene takes place.

Daniel Easton has the intensity and self-centredness of a despot and Barney McElholm is an expressive actor as out of his depth, sometimes confused Irwin. Scott Arthur as Nipple spends much of the play in a duffell coat, hood up but his speeches are a break from the monotony of political cant. Laurie Jamieson's Wick is an unthinking follower.

Watching Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs I wondered how much more meaningful it would be to have a play showing how the so-called Islamic State gets a hold on their followers to convince them to die for the cause. Little Malcolm does not have the makings of a Hitler with a party of only three. As a youth movement he is not a success or really dangerous but a bully and a figure of ridicule.

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Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs
Written by David Halliwell
Directed by Clive Judd

With: Scott Arthur, Daniel Easton, Laurie Jamieson, Barney McElholm, Rochenda Sandall
Designer: Jemima Robinson
Lighting: Elanor Higgins
Sound Designer: Giles Thomas
Running time: Two hours 50 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking to 1st August 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 10th July 2015 performance at The Little, Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD (Tube: The Borough or Elephant and Castle)
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