Theatre Review: Doctor Bonk’s Lockdown Die-ary // Edinburgh Horror Festival

Photo Credit: Edinburgh Horror Festival

The plague doctor would surely have been the ironic Halloween costume of choice this trick or treat season if going door to door was advisable right now. This irony is not lost on Doctor Bonk, the madcap creation of award-winning comic Eliott Simpson. Doctor Bonk’s Lockdown Die-ary tells the tale of Bonk’s first few months of quarantine as he comes to terms with his new life. He also tries his hand at becoming a social media influencer, vlogging his way to imagined stardom from the confines of his kitchen.

Bonk’s most distinctive trait – asides his beaked get-up – is a zany, volatile style of comedy that veers towards sensationally funny absurdism. It was shown to full effect at the Edinburgh Horror Festival last year. That onstage presence sadly cannot return like it could due to audiences and performers alike living through the next global pandemic (although in Bonk’s view, Coronavirus doesn’t stack up against the Black Death). Instead, and with the help of several of Bonk’s acquaintances, Simpson opts for a filmed comedy theatre experience in the style of old-school b-movies and public information reels. The flickering black and white shots, with onscreen text and the odd sound effect, makes the most out of a simple set up. Editing trickery and Bonk’s predictably unpredictable antics make for a very entertaining watch. The aesthetics are as impressive as the humour, which is littered with lighter touches as well as more offbeat jokes almost guaranteed to trigger voracious laughter.

A tongue-in-cheek comedy drama, the Lockdown Die-ary follows Bonk from the beginning of lockdown as he slowly starts to lose the plot. He busies himself with mundane activities, from curing his flatmate’s ‘iron’ deficiency to feeding a pet rabbit taken straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. However the goofy potential of a plague doctor living through a modern day plague often goes amiss. His very existence in 2020 is something that lends itself to more cutting observations and twisted jokes than Bonk delivers. But it doesn’t go completely unaddressed, Bonk’s subtitled mumbling through his plague mask delivering the peculiar logic and farcical gags that make his character so memorable. 

Such is the strangeness of Bonk’s character that it is easy to disregard how technically refined the Lockdown Die-ary is. Masterfully repurposed zoom calls and video recordings are fitted seamlessly into fake news shows and online chats, all the while adhering to the silent movie style that keeps the show feeling light-hearted and unique. It works wonders with a comedy gorefest like what Bonk delivers, surely the work of someone who digested the Horrible Histories books as a child and thought they weren’t bloody enough. Simpson’s irreverent, infectiously funny creation has plenty to say about 2021, and Doctor Bonk continues to prove why his ‘medical expertise’ is just what the doctor ordered if you’re looking for a bizarre slice of comic relief.

Doctor Bonk’s Lockdown Die-ary is available to watch here until the 1st November.

Words by James Hanton.


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